Daniel Ricciardo’s first year with Renault has been less than ideal for the Aussie superstar with just five top 10 finishes and just as many retirements in the 16 races so far this season.
It’s been a turbulent year for the team, currently sitting in fifth in the contractors championship, 33 points behind their customer team McLaren.
Ricciardo is sitting in equal 10th in the driver’s championship alongside teammate Nico Hulkenberg, both on 34 points.
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But the team has also walked away from Hulkenberg, replacing him with highly regarded Mercedes youngster Esteban Ocon for the 2020 season.
Renault have also taken a big financial hit with McLaren deciding to end the engine contract between the teams and moving to Mercedes as their supplier.
Ricciardo has tried to take a positive approach to the season and has consistently said he has noticed improvements but the results haven’t followed for the most part.
Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul has said the Ricciardo-Ocon line up will be exciting but has already tipped fireworks between the two competitive drivers.
Speaking on the official F1 podcast Beyond The Grid, Abiteboul revealed why Renault had opted to replace Nico Hulkenberg with Ocon for 2020.
“The problem sometimes in Formula 1 is you have people doing very long careers, and at the end, they are there to be in Formula 1 and almost (winning) becomes secondary,” he said. “I don’t want that at any point in the company.
“Don’t get me wrong, when I’m saying that, I’m not talking about Nico … But I do feel that when you are 22, (in the) early days of your career — a career for which you had to fight a lot … it’s a different dynamic. It’s the sort of dynamic that I feel is the right dynamic for our team.
“So if you ask me whether we’ve taken Esteban because Esteban is simply a better driver than Nico, I am absolutely unable to tell you … But do I believe that it’s better in the dynamic of our team? Yes, I feel so.”
Ocon had a brittle relationship with his former teammate Sergio Perez at Force India and had a brutal fight with Max Verstappen at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Abiteboul predicts the team will have a similar dynamic at Renault in 2020.
“(Esteban) will want to beat Daniel,” Abiteboul said bluntly. “And I know that we will have some challenges from a driver management perspective on the pit wall to manage that. But that’s also a nice problem to have.”
But Ricciardo has already admitted he’s ready for the challenge with the 30-year-old Aussie willing to fight for his position as the number one driver of the team.
“For me, the way I see a new teammate actually is, selfishly, a way to improve,” Ricciardo told Ziggo Sport. “Every driver has something different. It is impossible to better in every phase of every corner on every single day.
“Naturally, you’re not always going to be faster. Even if it is one corner then you can still learn something.
“Having another driver in is another way for me to study, to learn, to improve. OK it’s not great for the team with stability, but with driving it is a chance to learn more. I’m looking forward to it and it should be fun.”
Ricciardo will need to put in a big effort as well with the Aussie only contracted at Renault until the end of next season.
It comes after Abiteboul admitted last month Renault could promote a academy driver for the 2021 season and said it was unlikely Renault would be competing for podiums in 2020 with the change in regulations coming in for 2021.
“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.”