Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul says Daniel Ricciardo will need to temper his expectations for 2020, as the team begins planning for major regulation changes to hit Formula One the following year.
Wholesale rule changes are expected for 2021, creating an opportunity for teams to upset the traditional running order of the sport, as Mercedes did when the regulations last changed in 2014.
Ricciardo is in the first year of a two year deal with Renault, with paddock speculation already rife about where he’ll end up in 2021, with a host of top name drivers coming off contract at the same time.
While Renault have endured a difficult 2019, there have been signs of improvement in recent weeks, including a fourth place finish for Ricciardo at the Italian Grand Prix.
But Abiteboul has warned that 2020 could be another tough year, with the team forced to focus on both the 2020 season, and the development of the 2021 car.
Ricciardo ‘encouraged’ by Renault’s F1 season
“Our difficulty in next year’s preparation will be the balancing of the resources between 2021 and 2020,” Abiteboul told the Beyond the Grid Podcast.
“This year has been very difficult because we have to work on three cars in parallel: 2019, 2020 and because 2021 is so important, we are working also on 2021.
“We will have to balance everyone’s expectation, including Daniel’s expectation for 2020, against also what needs to be done for 2021.”
Abiteboul says he won’t have any chance of holding on to Ricciardo for 2021 unless he can demonstrate the team is heading in the right direction next year.
“It’s a question of credibility. It took a result like Monza for people to start believing what were saying about the engine. That could be the same question of credibility when I will be discussing with Daniel about 2021.
“What will be my credibility in telling him that we will be able to complete that step?
“He needs a better car, but he needs to see that before 2021 there is progression, and we are able to demonstrate and understand what we are doing.
“This year has been disappointing, next year has to be a bit better.”
Success has been limited for Ricciardo in 2019. He started sixth in Monaco and fourth in Canada, scoring points in both races. His pace in Belgium was good, but power unit penalties hampered his race. It wasn’t until the Italian Grand Prix, where he started fifth and finished fourth, that he was able to consistently run at the front.
Abiteboul says he’s amazed at Ricciardo’s ability to turn potential into results, pointing out that each time a circuit has suited the Renault the Australian has made the most of it.
“Each time we’ve been capable of giving him a decent car this year, Montreal, Monaco, Spa, Monza, his ability to extract so much out of the car, that’s really insane.
“It’s fair to say we need to give him a proper car.
“There’s a motivation to give him, as quickly as possible, a better car so that we can properly leverage what he has to offer.”
A year on from Ricciardo’s shock decision to leave Red Bull to join Renault, Abiteboul admitted the move was “a bit of a surprise” given the lack of results the team had achieved.
But the Frenchman revealed he had an inkling that all was not well between Ricciardo and Red Bull.
“I could feel that there was something not working anymore between Daniel and Red Bull, no disrespect to Red Bull, but when you feel you are left behind, you really feel it,” Abiteboul said.
“I could feel that he was not happy where he was.
“It was obvious he had a better car than the one we would have to offer, but Daniel was at a point in his career where he was expecting more than that.
“I’ve read a lot of things about that move, but I think we need to respect people who look at the bigger picture for themself.
“It was a surprise, but it kind of made sense.”
Abiteboul also revealed he announced Ricciardo’s signing to the Renault workforce in slightly unusual circumstances.
“It was a bit messy because it was just before summer shutdown, I did a video call and I was wearing my swimsuit, but people could not see that because it was on Skype!” he said.
“I did two video conferences, and I announced it and the wave was just massive.
“With his smile, he’s capable of bringing everyone together. Behind him, but also together. He’s managed to create a better team, a better group of people.
“The huge disappointment is it has not turned into a better car this year.”