BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Daniel Ricciardo says his new contract will be signed by the time the Formula One season gets back underway at Spa-Francorchamps later this month.
For the first time in his career Ricciardo is a free agent for next year, but with limited options elsewhere he is expected to stay at Red Bull in 2019. He was linked to Ferrari earlier this year but claimed negotiations never got underway, while the only other viable option without taking a step backwards in performance, Mercedes, signed Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for 2019 last month.
Ricciardo had previously said he wanted his future decided by the summer break, but now says he has the Belgian Grand Prix as a realistic target.
"I was just making it up so you guys would stop asking me," he told media after testing the Red Bull at the Hungaroring on Tuesday. "It'll definitely be done by Spa so whether it gets announced over the break or at Spa but it's just a little bit of fine-tuning.
"It's all good. You will hear something soon I'm sure."
A new contract is not just important for Ricciardo, it is also key for the future of Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard is currently on loan to Renault from Red Bull and the drinks manufacturer has kept his 2019 options open so he could be used as a backup in case the Ricciardo deal fell through.
As a result, Renault has already started negotiating with Mercedes junior and current Force India driver Esteban Ocon, who looks set to take Sainz's place at the team next year. Once a Ricciardo deal with Red Bull is signed, Sainz will be able to enter negotiations with other teams but in the meantime is losing valuable negotiating time.
He has been linked to a McLaren drive alongside Fernando Alonso next year, but played down the suggestion when it was put to him in a press conference last week.
"I cannot comment on it. Nothing changes until my future is decided by Red Bull or if Ricciardo doesn't sign a deal etc. My future is still uncertain and I'm not linked with any other team yet."