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Red Bull owner prepared to ‘let Ricciardo go’

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Red Bull’s chassis and drivers can do the rest if its Renault engine is within half a second of Mercedes this year.

That is the view of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, as he gave a rare pre-season interview to Austrian media including Salzburger Nachrichten.

First, he said he is delighted with Toro Rosso’s shift to Honda power, saying the Japanese engine is “on par with Renault”.

As for Red Bull Racing, he said the 2018 car is “outstanding”.

“We think we are closer to the top than last year. In both chassis and engine,” said the billionaire.

“We don’t know much about what Mercedes did over the winter with the engine, but if we are within half a second, we can catch up with our drivers and our chassis,” Mateschitz added.

Beyond that, he said Red Bull hasn’t yet decided whether it will switch to Honda engines for 2019.

“We have to see how the season develops,” said the Austrian. “We don’t know our speed in qualifying mode yet, even if it looks good over a race.”

Mateschitz said he is also happy with the drivers, even though Daniel Ricciardo’s contract is ending.

Asked if the Australian is staying, he answered: “You’ll have to ask him that.

“After a long collaboration, probably everyone is looking for a new challenge, especially if a top team is offering.

“We’ll let him go if he wants, but we’ll be happy if he stays. And if he leaves, we have good guys at Toro Rosso. But all of this is a problem for later,” Mateschitz said.

Finally, he spoke about Liberty Media’s decision to ban grid girls, calling it a “Punch and Judy show”.

“Formula one has more important things to do than debate about grid girls,” he added.

“We’re thinking about having grid boys in Spielberg with six packs and lederhosen. You don’t have to react to everything so seriously,” said Mateschitz.

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