Cyril Abiteboul delivered the biggest driver coup in recent memory when his team quietly engineered Daniel Ricciardo’s headline-grabbing defection from Red Bull to the French outfit, the Australian’s decision even catching his soon to be team chief by surprise.
It has emerged that quietly the two parties had been flirting for some time, but last October when Red Bull signed Max Verstappen to a three-year deal, Ricciardo is said to have snapped and although he came desperately close to renewing with Red Bull he did not sign as expected.
Instead, the Australian called Abiteboul to accept the deal and will be a Renault driver from next year, the rest is now history.
Asked about the remarkable scoop, Abiteboul recalled when he got the acceptance call from Ricciardo, “It came both as a surprise but also as a relief, because it’s positive news.”
“It’s great news for Renault, for the team – but it’s also news that’s carrying not just emotions but also responsibility and some obligation to deliver. To deliver cars that are in line with his expectations, with his talent.”
“We were already obliged to our shareholders, to our sponsors, to our fans, towards the legacy of Renault. Now we are also obliged towards him, and we want this charismatic driver to find what he’s come to find and to look for with our organization. So, we just have a bit more pressure – but it’s healthy pressure.”
Abiteboul was asked if signing Ricciardo put a dent in his team’s budget, he replied, “First, in my opinion, Renault can afford pretty much anything. Renault is the largest car maker involved in Formula 1. So we can afford anything as long as it makes sense.”
“Then it’s just a question of value for money and whether it makes sense to spend that given where we are in the development of our team.”
“Second, I don’t think we were the highest bidder in obtaining Daniel, without going into details. He bought into the project not necessarily because of the money. I don’t think it would be great to put this sort of light on Daniel.”
“And lastly, it would not make any sense to bring a driver by having to make some concession on our capacity to finance the development of the engine or the chassis. So, in shorthand, obviously it means an increase in our budget,” explained Abiteboul.