Things have started to look up for Daniel Ricciardo and the Renault F1 team after a string of improved results of late - but that’s just made that Australian driver’s looming departure a bitter pill for team principal Cyril Abiteboul.
The Renault team principal admitted his ‘frustration’ about the split with Ricciardo, who signed with McLaren for 2021 after Carlos Sainz Jr was picked to replace outgoing Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel.
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In an interview with motorsport.com ahead of the Russian Grand Prix this weekend, Abiteboul said he felt like the team was showing genuine progress after a disappointing 2019 season.
“I think everyone has been able to feel the frustration, and my own frustration, when (Ricciardo’s McLaren deal) was announced,” Abiteboul said.
“And let’s be honest. I had the feeling that this was coming, that the team had made a step up, and that the car would be better.
“Plus that there was much more to come actually in the pipeline, that he had not driven yet.
“I knew the figures, but the problem is that it’s only figures, and I know that he’s been promised lots of things in the past not only by us, but also by his previous team.
“Daniel is very emotional but he has clearly made a step up. He has gained massively in confidence with the team and with the car, and the relationship between him and his race engineer is very, very strong. We see all of that, it’s finally paying dividends.”
Renault learn F1 lessons from Daniel Ricciardo tenure
Renault have drafted Fernando Alonso from the F1 sidelines to replace Ricciardo, the two-time F1 champion who won both his titles with the manufacturer in 2005 and 2006.
Abiteboul said the team had learned from their experience with Ricciardo that it is difficult to expect a driver to be fully to grips with their car in their first season.
“It’s really true that when you change driver, you make a step back before making a step forward,” Abiteboul said.
“Because year one is always a bit of an investment before the years ahead. So we need to have longer stints with our drivers if want to make steps forward.”
Renault stand fifth in the constructor’s standings heading into the Russian GP, behind Racing Point (92) and McLaren (106).