Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul as admitted the team reacted badly to Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave for McLaren next season and the team wouldn’t be where it is today if not for the Aussie.
Due to the delayed start to the season, which included the Australian Grand Prix cancelled on the eve of practice, Ricciardo was forced to make a decision on his future before he had even driven this year’s offering from Renault.
With Sebastian Vettel’s exit from Ferrari creating a domino effect, the Aussie switched to McLaren, who had outperformed the disappointing Renault in 2019.
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However, Renault’s fortunes have vastly improved this year as the gap between them and McLaren is down to just two points in the constructor standings ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
Therefore, Ricciardo’s decision to leave for a close rival wasn’t greeted warmly, with Abiteboul at the time commenting about “reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment,” hinting that the Aussie didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
He has now softened his stance, admitting he was a “bit negative” after hearing the news.
“I know that 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 that it’s precisely because it was an honest, emotional, unfiltered communication at the time that Daniel is also being unfiltered and genuine in what he’s doing today for the team.”
Ricciardo has since scored the team’s first podium since returning to the sport in 2016 and has been one of the most impressive drivers of the year so far as Renault took steps back in the right direction.
And Abiteboul admitted that without the push Ricciardo gave the team after a below-par 2019, this season’s improvement wouldn’t have been possible.
“The team wouldn’t be what it is today without Daniel, despite and maybe thanks also to the year that we had together last year, which was indeed a very painful year – which has pushed all of us, probably starting with myself, to take the measures that that we’ve taken, and also with the team.
“So now we are finding ourselves in a much better position for this year and for next year, and Daniel is capable of doing this type of thing. I think it’s a statement.”