Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul believes Esteban Ocon’s strengths are simply being covered up by Daniel Ricciardo’s performances.
After losing his seat with Racing Point for 2019, many were glad to see Ocon back on the grid in 2020 and expected him to thrive with Renault.
But the Frenchman has been underwhelming to date, outqualifying team-mate Ricciardo only once at the wet Styrian Grand Prix, while in the Drivers’ Championship Ricciardo is 42 points better off than his team-mate.
But Abiteboul has defended his compatriot, saying the gap in performance between his drivers has been both a case of bad luck for Ocon, and the fact that Ricciardo is currently operating at the top of his game.
“I think he needs to do what he has been doing, since a few races [the results] have unfortunately not really materialised but for reasons that are not in his direct control,” he is quoted by Motorsportweek.com.
“It can be clear since Monza, it was difficult, [but] there has been a bit of a reset of Esteban, the way that we are all working together, a lot of discussions, work from Mark Slade, in order to be bringing the steps.
“He needs to be very pragmatic about the situation, which is not a disaster, if you were to remove the points he lost due to lack of reliability he would probably be behind Daniel, by a chunk, but we are talking about Daniel Ricciardo.
“Esteban never had such a strong team-mate, he has had good team-mates, [Sergio] Perez in particular is strong, but I believe Daniel is stronger.
“I think he needs to be very pragmatic, set himself some realistic targets but also look at his current performance which he should not be ashamed of, and build his confidence.
“He needs to also build his ability to be a bit patient sometimes, like a lot of young drivers he has a bit of impatience that leads him to some mistakes.
“But there is no reason this cannot be fixed, and with the support of the team around him it will be fixed.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) October 16, 2020
Ocon is contracted to the Renault team for 2021 where he is set to partner the returning Fernando Alonso as Ricciardo makes the move to McLaren.
But recent rumours have suggested that Ocon’s place is under threat from AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who may look to become Renault’s next homegrown addition and leave the Red Bull programme behind.