Renault F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul has admitted it was “difficult to manage” Daniel Ricciardo’s first season with the French team in the top flight.
Ricciardo’s move to the works Renault team from Red Bull was highly controversial, and then Renault struggled even to reach its goal of being ‘best of the rest’ in 2019.
Abiteboul explained to Le Figaro “A lot was said about his recruitment. It’s been a bit complicated to manage. That was because of the media pressure on the team and mistakes as well. Daniel wanted to do very well very quickly, but the car needed more time.
“But it has still been a good story and a positive point of the season. It allowed us to expose ourselves completely, for better and for worse. We cannot hide behind our drivers, and that created some pressure,” he said.
Towards the end of the year, Renault decided to oust Nico Hulkenberg for 2020 and replace him with Esteban Ocon, who arrives from the Mercedes stable.
Abiteboul admits that dealing with his impending exit has been difficult for Hulkenberg, “After the summer it was difficult when we decided not to renew his contract. He responded with some good races, but it’s been a bit more difficult for the past two or three races. I understand that.
“I know he can do better and I connect it with the emotion of ending with us. But Nico remains a great driver who handled the situation with an exemplary attitude on and off the track,” Abiteboul added.
He said “huge” progress with the engine was the positive side of Renault’s 2019, adding: “Unfortunately it wasn’t the same with the chassis.”
But aggressive restructuring has also taken place at the same time revealed Abiteboul, “Our strategy is built around 2021. The new technical and sporting regulations, the new distribution of income, all of that is to our advantage.
“It’s not quite that simple, because we cannot forget 2020 in a F1 that is evolutionary, but Renault is a manufacturer that wants to be at the front in 2021,” added the Frenchman.