Renault expected more from junior drivers

Date published: December 20 2020 - Jamie Woodhouse

Esteban Ocon Renault pit wall

Renault admit that they were expecting their junior drivers, especially in Formula 2, to perform better than they did in 2020.

The French manufacturer had been clear that they were hoping to promote a junior driver into a 2021 Formula 1 seat, but that didn’t happen with Renault instead turning to a famous name of their past in Fernando Alonso.

And it’s hard to blame Renault for making that decision.

Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou were the Renault juniors to take part in the 2020 Formula 2 season, both landing competitive seats at DAMS and UNI-Virtuosi respectively.

And while Lundgaard was able to pick up two race wins and Zhou a single victory, P6 for Zhou and P7 for Lundgaard in the final standings was disappointing, especially since they failed to get themselves involved in the title battle.

Zhou’s total of 151.5 points was also 49.5 fewer than team-mate and Ferrari junior Callum Ilott.

“We hoped for more from Zhou and Christian in FIA Formula 2 and we are somewhat disappointed with the outcome of finishing sixth and seventh in the Championship despite some strong performances resulting in wins and podiums,” said Renault Sport Academy head Mia Sharizman, as quoted by Formulaspy.

But on a positive note for Renault, another of their juniors Oscar Piastri was able to win the Formula 3 championship.

“Oscar winning the FIA Formula 3 was an unbelievable achievement and we are very proud of that.” explained Sharizman.

There was little praise though for Renault’s least experienced juniors Caio Collet and Hadrien David.

Collet finished runner-up in the Formula Renault Eurocup Championship to the dominant Victor Martins, a former Renault prospect.

David meanwhile finished on the podium once in the series on his way to P10 in the standings, though he is only 16 years old.

Sharizman did at least admit that Collet’s development throughout the season was in line with Renault’s expectations.

“Caio and Hadrien fell short of their target of winning their respective titles, but as the season evolved, we can see Caio’s potential and development, which is in line with our projection,” Sharizman continued.

“We know all the drivers can do better and they are aware that they will have to be better next year to progress further within the Academy. I know they will.”

Piastri-Ricciardo

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Of all the Renault juniors it seems that Piastri is the one with the most momentum, and his manager Mark Webber is targeting 2023 for his fellow Aussie to join the F1 grid.

“Every year is a huge year, every race is a big deal in the next few years for Oscar,” he told the Herald Sun.

“It’s ramping up really hard now. Next year (F2) will be another big step again.

“So it’s a year or two years (for him to get into Formula 1). A year would be very quick, two years will be more realistic, so you are looking at 2023.

“We have to be ready for anything in terms of his performance in formula at the moment. There are a lot of seats moving around, and looking for young fresh blood that’s delivering is something which is important.

“Even though, unfortunately, there are a lot of wealthy fathers buying some teams at the moment which isn’t helpful, hopefully talent will put him in good stead just within Renault because Renault are a factory team and they want the best guys in their cars.”

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