Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul says Esteban Ocon must “accept” the quality his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo possesses and set realistic goals.
The Frenchman made his return to Formula 1 in 2020 with Renault, and after a year on the sidelines as Mercedes’ reserve driver it was always going to take time for Ocon to get back up to full speed.
Ricciardo has got the better of Ocon in all but one qualifying session this season, that being the very wet Saturday at the Styrian Grand Prix, while Ricciardo has scored 53 points in the Drivers’ Championship compared to Ocon’s 30.
There’s no doubt though that Ocon is beginning to step up his game and he made it into Q3 at the Tuscan Grand Prix before spinning on his final flying lap.
But Abiteboul says it’s important for the 24-year-old to “accept” just how good Ricciardo is and set realistic goals for himself, though he does respect a driver who isn’t willing to accept the “status quo”.
“Daniel is a very strong driver. You don’t have to explain that to anyone,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.
“He has become even stronger this year. Because the car has got better and the cooperation with the engineers has improved. The rear of the car has become more stable and that gives Daniel more confidence.
“Esteban is slowly coming back after a one-year break. But he is not as far away from Daniel as it might seem. He has to accept that Daniel is a real benchmark and he has to set himself realistic goals.
“Okay, he made a mistake in qualifying at Mugello. But I forgive him for that. It shows me that he is attacking, that he wants more. I prefer that to a driver who simply accepts the status quo and the hierarchy in the team. I think the end of the season will still be a hot battle between our two drivers.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) September 21, 2020
Ricciardo will of course leave the team at the end of the season to join McLaren, but in his place Renault, or Alpine as they will be known in 2021, will gain the services of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.
Alonso won both of his titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, and with his return Abiteboul says the team have “no excuses” not to deliver.
And it’s well known that Alonso is both a demanding driver and a tricky personality to manage.
“We are prepared for it. I expect our car to look even better next year,” Abiteboul said when asked if the team are ready for Alonso’s character.
“If Fernando sees the progress, it will awaken the racer in him. Where we certainly need to improve is the execution on the track. From Fernando we know that he doesn’t make mistakes. So we have no excuses.”