Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has taken a veiled swipe at Daniel Ricciardo after the Aussie announced he was leaving the French team at the end of the season to join McLaren in 2021.
On a massive day of musical chairs in the wake of Sebastian Vettel revealing he will leave Ferrari at season’s end, it’s been confirmed Carlos Sainz will leave McLaren to replace Vettel at the Scuderia, while Ricciardo will replace Sainz.
The 30-year-old inked a two-year deal with Renault after leaving Red Bull in 2018 but has decided not to extend his contract after appearing to lose faith in the operation.
Ricciardo suffered a disappointing debut campaign in the yellow and black that was plagued by car issues and an unreliable engine, leading to a ninth-placed finish in the drivers’ standings as Renault was usurped by McLaren as the leading midfield team.
Ricciardo hasn’t been able to judge whether Renault has made the progress he desperately craved this year because coronavirus has prevented the 2020 season from getting underway, so he made the call to jump ship rather than risk more mediocrity with the same team.
It’s a decision that won’t sit well with Abiteboul, who appeared to take a parting shot at Ricciardo, saying: “In our sport, and particularly within the current extraordinary situation, reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment are, more than ever, critical values for a works team.
“I am confident that the 2020 season will allow us to accomplish even more together. Our ambitions and the strategy of Renault DP World F1 Team remain unchanged.”
Reading between the lines, it seems Abiteboul doesn’t believe Ricciardo is showing Renault “reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment”. The fact he didn’t even mention the West Australian in his statement is a glaring omission and suggests the split is far from amicable.
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There was also some frostiness detected in Renault’s statement about Ricciardo’s exit, which simply said: “Renault DP World F1 Team and Daniel Ricciardo will not continue collaboration beyond 2020.
“Within the unprecedented context of the 2020 season, discussions held with Daniel Ricciardo concerning a renewal of his contract beyond the end of 2020 have not been successful.”
As Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft pointed out on Twitter, there was no “thanks for the memories” or “good luck in the future” – a stark contrast to how other teams reacted to the bombshell developments on Thursday.
“McLaren thank Carlos & wish him well whilst welcoming Daniel to replace him. Renault decide not to wish Daniel well for the future whilst Ferrari welcome Carlos for 2021/22 as an ideal fit for them,” Croft wrote.
Renault’s – and Abiteboul’s – icy response was far different to what we saw from the other teams. McLaren chief Zak Brown praised the signing of Ricciardo while at the same time paid tribute to the outgoing Sainz.
“I also want to pay tribute to Carlos for the excellent job he has been doing for McLaren in helping our performance recovery plan,” Brown said. “He is a real team player and we wish him well for his future beyond McLaren.”
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl added: “Carlos is a true professional, a pleasure to work with and we will continue to enjoy going racing with him this year. We all wish him good luck for the next stage in his career when he leaves McLaren.”
Earlier in the week when Vettel and Ferrari announced they were parting ways, team boss Mattia Binotto thanked the German for his services.
Clearly, Abiteboul didn’t feel he had much to thank Ricciardo for, given their working relationship was far shorter than the others involved in this dramatic shake-up.
McLaren and Ferrari had planned their driver re-jig but Renault was blindsided by Ricciardo’s exit, and it remains to be seen who will partner Esteban Ocon next year.
There’s been speculation that vacant seat could go to Vettel, if he doesn’t retire, or former world champion Fernando Alonso, while Renault’s academy drivers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard are also in the mix.