Christian Horner has detailed how a "badly advised" Daniel Ricciardo walked away from a Red Bull contract extension that would have had him earn equal money to Max Verstappen.
During 2018, Ricciardo was locked in contract talks with Red Bull, but owing to the rising threat of Verstappen, the aftermath of their Azerbaijan crash, and concerns over the 2019 Honda engine deal, Ricciardo jumped ship to Renault.
Since 2019, he moved to McLaren in 2021 before losing his seat after poor performances in '22 , signing on as third driver for Red Bull in '23.
The Australian is back racing after AlphaTauri drafted him in as a replacement for Nyck de Vries, having missed five races after his comeback due to a broken hand suffered in Dutch Grand Prix practice.
Ricciardo is hoping to take Sergio Perez's seat for 2025 alongside Verstappen, with Horner revealing that late Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz had agreed to a contract matching Verstappen's months before Ricciardo signed with Renault over the 2018 summer break.
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Ricciardo contract talks
"Daniel is a great guy, who was very badly advised earlier in his career," Horner told the Eff Won podcast.
"Everybody f***s up at some point and I think he recognised that he made a mistake [in leaving Red Bull], he didn't have good advice around him at the point he left us and he could see that Max was growing, and probably didn't realise just how good he was going to be.
"It was obvious at that stage that Max was coming and you could just see the raw talent, it just needed polishing a bit, so we gave Max a contract at the beginning of 2018 to secure his future.
"I remember Daniel being upset at the time, and suddenly felt that he didn't want to be the support act, and he got a lot of noise in his ear about money on the table.
"I spoke with Dietrich [Mateschitz] before the Austrian GP and said: 'Look, it's a bit marginal with Daniel [over signing a new contract], can you just show him some love, because Helmut [Marko] is obviously very pro-Max?
"'Just balance things out and let him know that you want him?' So he took Daniel upstairs after the race in Austria, and they were gone for well over an hour and then both reappear with smiles on thier faces."
Same salary as Verstappen
Horner then revealed that Mateschitz had promised to pay Ricciardo a salary that matched Verstappen's, something that shocked the billionaire despite signing off on both.
"I said [to Mateschitz], 'What did you agree with him?' and he said: 'I said, I'll just give him whatever we do Max.
"I was like: 'Wow, do you know what we pay Max?' and so I gave him the number and he said: 'Who the f*** agreed to that' and I said: 'You.'
"He said: 'Oh that's a lot of money, but he's is a great guy, so let's do it, give him the same deal that Max has.'
"So [Daniel's] agent is obviously jumping through hoops at the time, and that was for a two-year deal [for 2019 and 2020]."