Cyril Abiteboul thinks Renault’s first F1 podium finish since 2011 answered the critics who have accused them of hiring Daniel Ricciardo at the wrong time.
Ricciardo joined Renault for the 2019 season from Red Bull and after a disappointing first campaign, he chose to jump ship before the 2020 action got under way to sign up for McLaren next year.
But outside of Mercedes and Red Bull, Renault are arguably looking the strongest team at present and Ricciardo earned them a long-awaited podium at the Eifel Grand Prix by finishing third – their highest placing since returning to the grid following their purchase of Lotus at the end of 2015.
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) October 11, 2020
Team principal Abiteboul acknowledged the team had “been questioned” over the timing of their decision to sign Ricciardo and his subsequent departure.
“I think it was very important for everyone to put the commentators at bay and show why it made sense at the time,” said Abiteboul, quoted by RaceFans.
“Yes, it was disappointing last year. You could argue it was one year too early, but there is not that many opportunities to have a driver like Daniel who is available on the market. So I still believe it was the right thing to do at the time.
“The team wouldn’t be what it is today without Daniel and maybe thanks also to the year that we had together last year.
“That was indeed a very painful year which has pushed all of us, probably starting with myself, to take the measures we have taken. And also supported with the team in Enstone with Marcin Budkowski and so on and so forth.
“Now we are finding ourself in a much better position for this year and for next year and Daniel is capable of doing this type of thing. So I think it’s a statement.”
Ricciardo’s decision to leave Renault for McLaren was met with a terse statement by Abiteboul at the time, although relations appear more harmonious now following the Australian’s strong 2020 performances in which he has outshone team-mate Esteban Ocon.
“I know our communication was a bit negative when we found out that [he] would not stay with the team at the time,” said Abiteboul.
“But I think it’s precisely because it was an honest, emotional, unfiltered communication at a time that Daniel is also being unfiltered and genuine in what he is doing.”