Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken says he saw Daniel Ricciardo’s departure from Renault coming and still stands by his decision to leave the team over the winter.
Aitken was Renault’s third and reserve driver last season but opted to move to Williams ahead of the 2020 season in a switch that was set to see him drive in at least one FP1 session. With Ricciardo’s move to McLaren announced last week, there is now a vacancy at Aitken’s previous team but the Formula 2 race winner says he doesn’t expect Renault to promote one of its junior drivers.
“I would like to say for the most part I did see something like this coming, and I’m not shocked that Daniel’s left,” Aitken (pictured at left, above, with Ricciardo) told RACER. “I think it’s the next move of who they replace him with that is more the reason why I’m happy to stick with my guns. I saw it coming, I’m just not confident that they’re necessarily as invested in their junior driver academy as the junior drivers might hope.
“I felt like there was less chance of progression there. There’s a lot of rumors — you probably know more than I do — (of) a certain Fernando (Alonso) sniffing around… If they were to bring in someone like that I wouldn’t be surprised — they do seem to need a bit of a team leader — and I’d be thinking, ‘Well, what’s the point of being here?’
“I did see more of a path for progression with Williams. I’m going to stick to my guns here and say I saw it coming and it’s all going to turn out fine! It’s definitely one that I’m watching with a lot of interest, not just because of my history with Renault but just as a fan it’s an intriguing story, I think.”
Aitken believes Renault will be considering its own future in F1 amidst the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, but says the whole company will always be analyzing if its investment is worth it.
“With the exception of one or two teams that you would call the historical teams, like Ferrari, Williams and McLaren — those teams that have been in for a long time and for the foreseeable future they will be around, because their reason to be is to be in F1. Teams like Renault are a bit more…. They may say they’re in it for the long game (but) realistically that means they’re in it for as long as it makes sense for them.
“The world changes pretty rapidly, as we’ve seen. I’ve always felt that (Renault) were committed to F1; they have put a lot of money into it, but they haven’t had the success that they’ve wanted. It’s always been something that has been hanging over the team, I think, especially recently. I’m pretty sure that the conversation is being had whether it’s worth carrying on, put it that way.
“That’s not something that is new this year — I think it’s been hanging over them for a couple of years. It’s always going to be while it’s convenient and makes sense for the parent company.”
Listen to the full interview with Aitken in the podcast below: