Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul promises there will be no preferential treatment to Esteban Ocon this season despite Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave the team.
Ricciardo has signed for McLaren for 2021 in place of Carlos Sainz, with his move announced before the current season has got underway. Despite knowing the Australian will be leaving, Abiteboul says there is nothing to be gained from favoring one driver over the other and that Ricciardo will actually remain more integrated than a departing driver usually would.
“I don’t want to expand too much on that in front of Daniel,” Abiteboul said during a group team press conference ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix next weekend. “As Daniel has said, we have a mission — we have some frustration with last year and what we’ve done. I really believe that we can do better this year. We certainly have a car that should allow us to do better, so that’s the focus here and now.
“What I can say is Daniel is a great driver and a great personality, so that will be the profile for anyone who comes next. But right now the focus is on what we need to do, there won’t be any preferential treatment between Esteban and Daniel off the back of his decision, because it’s not a policy of the team and it’s not a necessity. Let’s be honest: we’re not fighting for any championship as we stand right now so it would make absolutely no sense.
“Daniel will be fully involved in the development process of the car, because there is this luxury that the cars are more or less frozen between this year and next year. Also, McLaren will have to use all their (development) tokens on pure chassis and engine integration, so no performance development there, and that will give us the opportunity to work extremely normally with Daniel.
“The only thing is, obviously he won’t be exposed to 2022 (developments) but frankly he would not be anyway, because it’s still a bit far away from a driver perspective even though a substantial part of our workforce is already onto 2022.”
Ricciardo also is not expecting any relationships within the team to have been heavily impacted by his decision, having gone through a season with Red Bull after signing for Renault back in 2018.
“I think maybe the first time I see some people in the team there might be that moment of perhaps… I don’t know if the word is awkwardness, but I went through it a couple of years ago,” Ricciardo said. “But I think because time has passed since the news, I’ve spoken to if not seen already some members of the team and it’s really back to business.
“We’re all excited to get racing again. Hopefully we get a bundle of races and a chance to finish this out strong. From my side that’s certainly put behind me and not in my train of thought at the moment, and it won’t be until next year.
“We’ll just get on with. I’ve spent a couple of days in the sim as well, so seen a few people around the factory and no black eyes or punches in the stomach, so I think we’re all moving on and will give it all for the rest of the year.”