Daniel Ricciardo and Renault latest: Cyril Abiteboul on F1 2021 talks
Watch the full episode of the latest Sky F1 Vodcast for free below as the Renault team boss and Esteban Ocon discuss a host of topics
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 09/05/20 1:34pm
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul says the team are keen to secure a new deal with Daniel Ricciardo for 2021.
But Abiteboul stressed that the team's build-up to ensure they are competitive for F1's now-2022 rules overhaul will be the big focus of the team over the next two years.
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The lucrative two-year deal that Ricciardo signed to move from Red Bull expires in December and the 30-year-old seven-time race winner has already been linked to potential moves elsewhere, including Ferrari.
Abiteboul wryly remarked on his appearance on Friday's Sky F1 Vodcast: "The silly season that has started before the season! Is it the first time in history?"
But any driver negotiations are currently complicated by the fact the 2020 campaign will start at least four months later than scheduled owing to the coronavirus.
"We like Daniel. Daniel imparted into a project that was very clear from day one and that project is clearly uncomplete, both at the team level and, I guess, also at Daniel's level," said Abiteboul to Sky F1's Simon Lazenby and Johnny Herbert.
"The circumstances are very strange in the fact that the season has not even started. So we are just halfway into what we need to do together and already we need to think about the future.
"And we are thinking collectively. I like to think we can do more together, we can accomplish more together and get more results than what we have done so far. That's clearly the intention.
"But, having said that, we have a strategy plan. That plan was around substantial investment for the 2021 car."
"It happened that it's now 2022 because the rules are delayed by a year. It doesn't mean that we are dropping the ball on what we need to do this year and next year before 2022 because it's just iterative that's that very clear."
Abiteboul added: "We'd like Daniel to be part of that construction but clearly we know that we need to focus on what's been missing so far to the team and what's been missing is not the best [performance] of the drivers, clearly.
"So the focus in the next two seasons will have to be on the hardware to make sure that any driver that we have in the future gets the best that we can offer so we can meet everybody's expectations - starting with mine, starting with Renault - in 2022.
Will Renault be able to match Ricciardo's current teams?
Ricciardo's current Renault deal is thought to make him one of the best-paid drivers on the grid.
While Abiteboul acknowledged that the full financial implications of the coronavirus crisis will not become clear for some time, he says the team's long-term strategy had to come first over an individual driver - even one who "matters a lot" like Ricciardo.
"We were out from a good testing campaign [heading to Australia] but left with absolutely no answer as to the actual competitiveness of the car and the team," said the Frenchman.
"We'd like to know more but we will be focused on what we have to do which is best for the team.
"That will be the team first before any given individual, even clearly Daniel, like Esteban, has to play a huge role in what we need to do.
"As everyone knows and expects, we have got a number of discussions, just like he's having a number of discussions, and we also have a young driver academy in which we have invested a lot. The purpose of that academy was to bring a talent into Formula 1 by 2021.
"2021 is actually next year - that's another option. Whether it's an option we take or not we will see that later. But we can't have the whole process and the whole strategy of Renault be down to the decision of one single man, that's for sure. Even if that single man matters a lot to me."
Don't miss the latest F1 Esports race - the Virtual Spanish GP - live at 6pm on Sunday on Sky Sports F1, Main Event and Sky F1's YouTube channel. The race is followed by a special unseen and hilarious feature with McLaren team-mates Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris driving the Circuit de Catalunya.