Daniel Ricciardo’s ongoing contract saga has taken a new twist, as German media outlet Sports Bild is reporting that McLaren is looking to gazump leading contenders Mercedes and Ferrari to the Australian’s signature for 2019.

The team is looking to offer Ricciardo a $20m-a-year deal that would more than triple his current salary and keep a big name in F1 with the McLaren brand.

Daniel Ricciardo’s 2018 form has made him the hottest free agent in F1 | Image: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images

The news comes just days after Red Bull announced they were ending their long partnership with engine supplier Renault to begin a two-year deal with Honda from 2019.

Red Bull power broker Helmut Marko knows the 28-year-old, who is off-contract at the end of the season, is in high demand. “Our Daniel Ricciardo is the king of the market,” Marko said. “McLaren offers him more every week.”

After Fernando Alonso’s victory in Le Mans last weekend, the Spaniard could be tempted to move to America with McLaren’s reported IndyCar programme and aim to complete the Triple Crown of motorsport by winning the Indianapolis 500. With only Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel with guaranteed contracts for 2019, Daniel Riccardo holds all the keys to unlocking the driver market and could be tempted to become McLaren’s leading star.

Will Alonso potentially walking away from F1 open a door for Ricciardo? | Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren

However, Marko believes that the Australian is more likely to switch to one of the higher-profile seats of Ferrari or Mercedes if he were to depart Red Bull. In fact, Marko has alluded to World Champion Lewis Hamilton holding all the aces in the market, and that Ricciardo is waiting for the Brit’s decision first.

“Above all, some people in Mercedes would absolutely want Ricciardo to join them in the team, but he doesn’t want to sign until Hamilton has signed,” Marko said. “It’s a bit strange. Hopefully, it ends soon.”

While a mega-bucks contract from McLaren would place Ricciardo amongst the elite in terms of salary in F1, he would still be behind four-time champions Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton, who are reportedly earning in the region of $60m and $50m from Ferrari and Mercedes respectively.

Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen singed a new long-term deal with the team that raised his salary to $10m a season, over three years. Riccardo currently earns $6m per year.

According to former driver and Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle, Ricciardo finds himself in an “odd position” in negotiations regarding his future.

“Lewis will stay at Mercedes. They’re just arguing over whether he has the M&Ms without the green ones in them or something like that, the detail at the end of it,” Brundle said.

“Daniel finds himself in a very odd position. He is going so well but Vettel kind of owns the driving seats at Ferrari, Hamilton at Mercedes and, it seems, Verstappen at Red Bull. So despite his form, he’s finding himself without a clear path.”

Verstappen and Ricciardo
Is re-signing with Red Bull now the least likely option? | Image: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images

Ricciardo sits fourth in the title race leading into the French Grand Prix this weekend. The race is expected to be an unpredictable affair, with France having been off the F1 calendar for 10 years.

Read more – Five reasons to watch the 2018 French Grand Prix

Ricciardo was leapfrogged in the overall standings by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas after finishing fourth in the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago, compared to the Finn’s second place, despite winning two races in China and Monaco respectively.

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