F1 2020: Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault ‘truth’, relationship with Esteban Ocon, crashes
The Australian star is still hungry for a world championship and put his faith in the French outfit to deliver.
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Going into the 2019 season, Renault were best of the rest but heading into 2020, McLaren have stolen the mantle and the prognosis from those within the team seems to be that it’s not going to get any better.
And with Ricciardo itching to compete for the title, it’s worrying signs in the relationship between the pair.
But whether he will trust Renault to push up to the ladder or jump ship if he gets an offer at one of the current big three remains to be seen.
“I am craving to take my shoe off, for sure,” Ricciardo said in reference to his trademark podium celebration where he drinks champagne from his race boot.
“It’s been a while, but I am optimistic … I feel like this year there’s a bit more stability within the structure so that, on top of what we learned last year, in my mind I’m like, ‘OK, it has to be better’.”
But he also admitted he is “answering all calls”, although he predicts this is the year he can make a big impact.
Are the higher ups at Renault confident about that? Not really.
In an interview at Renault’s Paris launch, Renault’s non-executive director Alain Prost said the team “don’t have a high expectation about this year”.
“This year, we have to say the truth,” Prost said. “We don’t have a high expectation about this year, so it’s a shame for Daniel, the second year with not a lot but it is going to be better.
“I think it’s going to be more his perception of what we could do for 2021, and also being realistic about the offers he is going to have from other teams.
“He will decide by himself but we will talk very soon. We don’t have everything in our hands, that’s for sure.”
It’s not a particularly promising statement from Prost.
And with the belief that Ricciardo could have a foot out the door, especially if one of the big boys comes knocking, Renault are hinging a lot of belief on the Aussie trusting they will get there, even without much evidence.
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul has admitted that Ricciardo’s mere presence on the team generated more expectation than Renault could have achieved, despite rhetoric about the team closing the gap to Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
With Esteban Ocon returning to the grid with Renault, Abiteboul admitted managing the 23-year-old Frenchman and the 30-year-old Aussie would be “a challenge”.
He once accused Perez of trying to “kill me two times” and the pair had a frosty relationship.
“What happened at Force India is not something I want to redo again,” he said. “It was not a nice atmosphere. We had respect – me and Checo (Perez) – and it didn’t slow down the team or anything, but the atmosphere between us was not so good.
“On track we came close too many times, that was clear, and that was not good. It’s not something I want to do again. The atmosphere is definitely a lot better between me and Daniel than it was with Checo.”
Ricciardo is one of the characters of the sport with Ocon even telling F1.com that during his first meeting, he was hit in the face by a water bottle thrown by the Aussie.
But the pair said they are looking forward to having a good relationship.
“I’m definitely coming into it with a fresh approach and I don’t want to lay any rules down from day one, because I think already that will create a tension in itself,” Ricciardo said. “His relationship with Perez, obviously they came to blows a few times and it’s a little bit like when I joined Red Bull you know Mark (Webber) and (Sebastian) Vettel came to blows a few times so a lot of people were like, are you going to have blows from Vettel?
“But the way I saw it was: ‘Mark and Vettel have their own relationship. That’s not my relationship so I need to establish something with him. It’s a bit like Perez and Ocon and me and Ocon. Maybe he had his things in the past, but I need to create something for myself with him. So I’m not going to come in with any kind of ideas or hesitations.
“I’m prepared for competition, but I’m not prepared for fun and games. If down the track fun and games appear then I’ll deal with it at the time but I think I’m certainly coming in with an open mind and positivity, as opposed to, ‘oh s***, when’s he going to blow up?’ I’m not I’m not thinking like that.
“I have every intention of building something positive. On Sundays we’re going to race it out and maybe we’ll bang wheels at some point, but it’s I think our best intention to try to get this team in a good place before they start losing energy focused on managing us you know they need to manage a better race car.”
Originally published as Renault’s harsh ‘truth’ for Ricciardo