Daniel Ricciardo’s podium at the Eifel Grand Prix is a statement from both Renault and the driver that the project is delivering what was promised since he joined, according to managing director Cyril Abiteboul.
Eyebrows were raised when Ricciardo opted to leave Red Bull for Renault at the end of 2018, with the team failing to finish in the top three in a single race last year and ending up fifth in the constructors’ championship. When Ricciardo’s move to McLaren next season was announced Abiteboul was openly critical of the decision, but said the fact the pair achieved their first podium together at the Nurburgring shows the team is delivering on what it had promised.
“I think it’s really important to the team, to Daniel, to myself I guess also,” Abiteboul said. “I know we’ve been questioned about this decision of him joining us, and also his decision of joining us. So in both directions really. It was very important for everyone to keep the commentators at bay and show why it made sense at the time.
“Yes, it was disappointing last year. You could argue it was one year too early, but there’s not that many opportunities to have a driver like Daniel who’s available on the market. I still believe it was the right thing to do at the time. The team wouldn’t be what it is today without Daniel.
“I’m even maybe thankful to the year we had together last year, which was a very painful year which as pushed all of us – probably starting with myself – to take the measures we have taken. So now we are finding ourselves in a much better position for this year and next year with Daniel capable of doing this type of thing.
“I think it’s a statement. I know our communication was a bit negative when we found out he would not stay with the team at the time, but it’s precisely because it was an honest, emotional, unfiltered communication at the time. Daniel is also being unfiltered and genuine in what he’s doing today with the team.”
The podium also comes at a much-publicized cost to Abiteboul, who said he will honor his side of a bet that will force him to get a tattoo for the first time in his life.
“He gets to choose the design and I get to choose the location and the size,” he said. “Size matters! I’m laughing because Daniel is leaving (the motorhome), and size matters, Daniel! As long as I’ve got the size, I think I can cope with or get away with any design.
“I don’t (have any tattoos), it’s not really my style, I guess that’s why I made that bet. I remember that night in Silverstone, Thursday evening in Silverstone last year, where Daniel was showing me a new tattoo that he had. I asked him: ‘How do you get there? What’s the sort of mental journey to get to that kind of tattoo?’
“He told me ‘I was just walking in front of that tattoo place and I thought, ‘let’s do one’. So I thought, ‘let’s do something proper. So if you do your podium, I’ll do one’, and I’m a man of my word. I just need a bit of time to decide the size and the location.”