Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull Racing for Renault in 2019

Daniel Ricciardo has won seven races since joining Red Bull Racing in 2014. (The Independent)

Daniel Ricciardo will drive for a team other than Red Bull Racing in 2019.

Red Bull announced early Friday morning in the United States that Ricciardo would be leaving the team at the end of the 2018 season. Not long after Red Bull’s announcement, Renault said Ricciardo would be joining the team in 2019.

“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far,” Ricciardo said in a statement. “But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge. I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won. I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”

Ricciardo won Monaco in 2018

Ricciardo, 29, and current teammate Max Verstappen are the only two drivers not named Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton to win a race in Formula 1 in 2018. Ricciardo won in China, the third Grand Prix of the season, and then won three races later in Monaco. Fittingly, both of those wins came sandwiched between wins by Hamilton and Vettel.

Ricciardo is currently fifth in the points standings, 14 points behind Valtteri Bottas in fourth and 95 points behind Hamilton in the points lead.Ricciardo has won seven races in his F1 career, including three in his first season with Red Bull Racing in 2014. He’s finished in the top five in the points standings in three of his four full seasons with Red Bull.

Why would Ricciardo leave?

Red Bull has played a distant third fiddle to Ferrari and Mercedes in 2018. But that distant third fiddle has still been better than the rest of the Formula 1 field. The team has expressed dissatisfaction with its current engine provider and is making the switch to Honda for the 2019 season. But that engine unhappiness apparently didn’t sway Ricciardo too much. Renault is Red Bull’s current engine provider.

Ricciardo drove for Renault in Formula 1’s developmental levels from 2007-2011 and has driven a Renault-powered car ever since joining Red Bull Racing. With Ferrari (Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen) and Mercedes (Hamilton and Bottas) set for 2019, Ricciardo’s other top 2019 F1 option was probably McLaren … a team powered by Honda.

Renault’s factory team has been the best of the rest past Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull in 2018. Renault, with drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, is fourth in the constructors’ standings.

Who will team with Verstappen?

We know who Ricciardo’s Renault teammate will be. The team said in its announcement that Ricciardo would drive alongside Hulkenberg. That leaves Sainz as the odd man out and he could be effectively trading places with Ricciardo. Sainz entered Formula 1 with Red Bull Toro Rosso — Red Bull Racing’s F1 feeder team — and moved to Renault in the middle of the 2017 season.

Red Bull wasn’t ready to commit to a driver announcement just yet, however.

“We will now continue to evaluate the numerous options available to us before deciding on which driver partners Max Verstappen for the 2019 season,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said in a statement. “In the meantime, there are still nine races left in 2018 and we are fully focused on maximising every opportunity for Max and Daniel for the remainder of the season.”

Sainz and Verstappen were together at Toro Rosso in 2015 and for a few races in 2016 before Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull Racing.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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