Renault: 2020 form alone won't be enough to keep Ricciardo
Renault says its low expectations for the season ahead mean that it will need a leap of faith from Daniel Ricciardo about its 2021 prospects to keep hold of him.
With the French car manufacturer cautious about its chances for 2020, and aiming for top four in the constructors' championship, it is not pretending it will deliver Ricciardo front-running machinery.
With the Australian out of contract at the end of the season, and possible vacancies at Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari for 2021, Renault knows it could have a fight on its hands to retain him.
Renault's F1 non-executive director Alain Prost said the team needed to accept that its 2020 form alone would not be enough to convince Ricciardo to say, which is why it had to sell him its vision for what is possible next year.
"For sure this year, we have to say the truth," said Prost, speaking at the Renault season launch in Paris.
"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 added: "He will decide by himself but we will talk very soon. We don't have everything in our hands, that's for sure."
Ricciardo insisted he had not yet had any thoughts about his options for 2021, but was clear that he retained belief in the Renault project for now.
"I don't have anything written down with Renault beyond this year but whatever may or may not come in the next few months, or over the course of the year, I'm 100% committed to still making this work with Renault," he said.
"I haven't thought about scenarios yet of being somewhere else. I do feel like last year was a bit of an unknown, but I do feel this year there is much more in place to get this thing on the right track, and to kind of tick some of the boxes that I thought we would tick when I signed the contract.
"I do believe there is a shoey in here somewhere in a yellow car. I do believe that, so yeah I'm certainly all in, to make those things come to fruition, you know.
"For me personally as well I do want it to work. I do want this year to be successful. So regardless of what was to happen you know, I could hold my chin high and be like you know, we really gave this an awesome crack. And ideally, the crack continues."
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul thinks that the chances of keeping Ricciardo will be defined pretty early on by how much progress the team has been able to make over the winter.
Asked about how he would convince him to stay, he said: "I think the main difficulty will be timing, I guess, for obvious reasons.
"You want to have a quick decision regarding his future, but I think what we also need is a little bit of time to see how we are developing as a team and how we are working together and what we are capable of delivering. Because let's be honest, together we failed to deliver the expected results last year.
"So hopefully we can we can do better. But the first thing I think he will want is to see if we are capable of providing him a better car, because frankly if you're not capable of doing that this year, why would we next year? And I completely understand that.
"So, the first way to check is, you know, in the next few weeks to see if the car is indeed better, and if the priorities that we had set for our self over the winter, have been addressed successfully."
Abiteboul said that Renault had commanded good driver line-ups over recent years because of the potential the team had for the future. But, he said, at some point the outfit needed to live up to promises
"I think we've been able to do that [have good drivers] because of the expectation of the drivers for Renault to become a strong team. But at some point it will stop. At some point we need more than people just expecting that we become a good team. We also have to become a good team to retain the sort of line-ups that we currently have."
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