Renault admit 2018 driver line-up rumours haven't been 'handled well'
Abiteboul talks Palmer, Sainz, Kubica and more on Sky F1
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 03/10/17 4:23pm
Renault have conceded they have not "handled the speculation well" around F1's driver market after opting to replace Jolyon Palmer with Carlos Sainz for 2018.
Confirmation of Sainz's move came after months of persistent links with a number of drivers, including Robert Kubica who was handed a high-profile in-season testing day at Hungary in August.
Palmer, on the other hand, reportedly found out about his axing online - while there were even rumours that he could lose his seat before the end of the 2017 campaign. His appearance at the Malaysia GP put an end to that speculation, but Cyril Abiteboul has still admitted that Renault could have dealt with the situation better.
"I'm not confirming [wanting Sainz this year] and it's not happening," the Renault boss told Sky Sports F1. "There has been this speculation since Montreal. Maybe we haven't handled the speculation well.
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"It's true we wanted to try something with Robert [Kubica], and were thinking about next year. But try and see it from Renault's perspective.
"We are coming a bit late from the driver contracts and we had to think outside the box and try and create these options that were maybe not available initially. And maybe with these repeated driving occasions with Robert we have created such speculation."
In an interview with Martin Brundle for Sky F1's Malaysia GP Race Show, Palmer insisted he didn't feel "cheated" by Renault and that he would approach the final races of the season with "nothing to lose".
And though Palmer's F1 options for 2018 appear to be dwindling, with Williams one of just four teams yet to confirm their line-up, Renault claim they will help the Briton with his future..
"I think it's never easy to handle a separation," Abiteboul added. "Obviously we had to make a decision but it's happening every season that unfortunately relationships are not extending.
"But we are doing all that we can to help Jolyon think about his future - which may be in Formula 1 or may be somewhere else.
"Although it's a big group, we have involvement in lots of sports and I can guarantee that we want to be very fair to any drivers that are driving for Renault."
Palmer 'understands' Renault decision
Palmer also admitted to Brundle he can understand why Renault are replacing him for 2018 - having failed to score points before last month's Singapore GP.
"Honestly, yes [I can understand it]," he said. "Of course it's a results business.
"Before Singapore to not score a point when your team-mate is on a good handful of points, it doesn't look great. I think there's been a lot of reasons for that, definitely without the reliability problems we would have had points earlier.
"But Nico's been very strong this year and it's not surprising that if you're on the back foot then the team is looking around."
But what next for the former GP2 champion?
"It would be nice to stay in Formula 1, that's the aim, but I'm not afraid of anything in the future. It's quite an exciting time, it's a change as I've been with the team for a while. Change is exciting whatever way."
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