Daniel Ricciardo is staying put at Red Bull, his Formula One boss says, but for how long remains a mystery.
The Australian is widely reported as being off contract at the end of this season, with some pundits predicting – even pushing – a switch to Ferrari in 2017.
Addressing the rumours on Thursday, Ricciardo said his focus was on racing for Red Bull and that he wasn’t exactly out of contract.
Team principal Christian Horner gave no further insight when asked to clarify on Friday.
“He’s under contract so I think he was pretty accurate with his comment,” he said.
“Red Bull invest in these guys at a young age, they develop them, they give them the opportunity through the junior team in Toro Rosso.
“Daniel Ricciardo is doing an excellent job … the contractual situation with (him) is extremely clear.
“How long? That is confidential.”
It followed a day of mixed fortunes for Ricciardo at Albert Park, tempered by inclement weather and a trip into the gravel trap.
The local hope’s first practice session came to an abrupt halt when he speared off the wet track with just 30 seconds left, leaving him to walk back to the pits, shaking hands and posing for selfies with fans as he went.
“That was all planned,” Ricciardo said, flashing his trademark grin.
“I told a bunch of my mates to wait at the exit of turn 12 there so they were stoked – they didn’t think I’d go through with it.
“But the car was fine, just a bit of gravel, which the mechanics love … it was all good.”
Rain lashed the circuit on and off throughout the day but – his unplanned excursion aside – Ricciardo handled the conditions well to finish third quickest in the opening session and fourth quickest in the second.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was the pacesetter once again, posting the fastest laps in both sessions.
Ricciardo admitted to a level of frustration at the conditions that robbed all teams of valuable laps, but was confident his team still gathered enough intelligence ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.
“It was nice just to get in the car even though we didn’t get a whole lot of laps in, but the laps we did do I was pretty comfortable getting up to speed with everything,” he said.
“I think with the conditions like that going into an interesting qualifying format it could be an opportunity for us.
“Hopefully we can maybe sneak up a few rows further than what we probably could have in dry conditions.”