Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul appears consigned to losing Daniel Ricciardo once his contract expires, revealing they’re looking at options to replace the Aussie driver.
Ricciardo’s contract expires after the 2020 season, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he will return to Renault.
The French team recently signed 22-year-old Esteban Ocon for 2020, and according to Abiteboul, they’re on the hunt for more young talent.
Ocon, filling the reserve driver role for Mercedes this year, will replace Nico Hulkenberg alongside Ricciardo as part of a two-year deal keeping him at the team until 2021.
But Ricciardo’s future at Renault is anything but certain.
“It was important when given the opportunity to seize the opportunity of a complete driver in Daniel last year and we don’t regret that at Renault,” he told RaceFans.net.
“I think it’s a trend actually you can see in several teams. We are also interested in young drivers with our academy.
“We hope and expect to have possibly one driver from that academy by 2021. So it’s also a shift of dynamic to start really welcoming young drivers in our line-up.
“It’s not something that we would have been capable of doing two years ago but I think with more maturity in the team we can now envisage that.
“And that would be a good test to see if we are capable of also managing that because it’s a different type of management. Managing some who is 20, 22 or in his thirties, that’s different.”
Abiteboul’s comments seemingly throw Ricciardo under the bus and could be the clearest sign yet that he’ll be looking for a new drive.
Ricciardo enjoys 11-year high in Italy
Ricciardo admitted he felt pride after his Renault team banked their best result at Monza since 2008 last week, as the Australian driver scored his highest placing of the F1 season with a superb fourth spot.
Renault's 22-point haul at the Italian Grand Prix saw them overtake Toro Rosso to stand fifth in the overall constructors' standings with Ricciardo now up to eighth in the drivers' championship.
And Ricciardo, who had qualified in fifth place, was delighted with the team's efforts on Sunday as teammate Nico Hulkenberg finished just behind him in fifth.
"We deserved that today. It matches my best ever result here in Monza and to do it with Renault is great," the 30-year-old told the Renault website.
"I saw the battles happening at the front and I thought there could be a big opportunity to score strong points.
"I'm really happy for myself and also for the team. To get the team's best result since returning to Formula 1 in fourth and fifth at a power circuit really complements Renault and their hard work.
"The race pace was really good and it's a nice reward for the team. The result is long overdue this year; I'm very satisfied."