RED Bull boss Helmut Marko has given the biggest sign yet Daniel Ricciardo's future may lie with another Formula One team.
Speaking with Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Marko said the team is already planning for life after the Australian star as it builds around young stud Max Verstappen.
While any changes for next year would be a surprise, Marko appeared to indicate Ricciardo was already fielding offers for 2019.
"Verstappen has a longer contract," Marko said. "But Ricciardo is already on the market. We have to look for alternatives. We will not be unprepared."
In recent Malaysia GP winner Verstappen and showman Ricciardo, Red Bull has two of the youngest, talented and most marketable drivers on the grid.
But it is yet to supply the dashing duo with a car capable of winning a world title, which could prompt one or both of them to look elsewhere down the track.
Slow starts to the season have plagued the team in recent years but Marko insists Red Bull will make a better start in 2018.
"We are ensuring that it does not happen again," he said. "There is a new procedure in the wind tunnel and we are not even finished developing this car."
As for replacement options, the team continues to see talent rising through its development ranks. Carlos Sainz is being loaned to Renault next year but Red Bull has the option of pulling back into the fold in 2019 if Ricciardo were to depart.
They also saw Pierre Gasly debut for junior team Toro Rosso in Malaysia and look sure to hand him a full-time spot.
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