Renault's Abiteboul makes veiled dig at Ricciardo
Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has stressed the importance of "unity and commitment" after confirming Daniel Ricciardo's departure from the team at the end of the season.
Ricciardo will leave Renault after two years after signing a deal with McLaren for 2021, replacing Carlos Sainz as the Spaniard moves up to Ferrari in place of Sebastian Vettel.
The news was initially confirmed by McLaren on Thursday morning before Renault issued a statement soon after.
"Within the unprecedented context of the 2020 season, discussions held with Daniel Ricciardo concerning a renewal of his contract beyond the end of 2020 have not been successful," the statement read.
Renault F1 managing director Abiteboul made no reference to Ricciardo in his quote with the announcement, instead moving to highlight the value of loyalty for the team moving forward.
"In our sport, and particularly within the current extraordinary situation, reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment are, more than ever, critical values for a works team," Abiteboul said.
"I am confident that the 2020 season will allow us to accomplish even more together.
"Our ambitions and the strategy of Renault DP World F1 Team remain unchanged."
Ricciardo made a shock switch from Red Bull to Renault at the end of the 2018 season, becoming one of the highest-paid drivers on the grid.
The move was part of a long-term plan for Renault to return to the front of the F1 field, setting its sights on race wins and a championship bid under the new regulations planned for 2021. These have since been delayed to 2022 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ricciardo endured a difficult first season at Renault as the team failed to retain its position at the front of the midfield, let alone cut the gap to the leading three teams as it had hoped to.
The team dropped behind McLaren to fifth in the constructors' championship, with Ricciardo recording a best race finish of fourth in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
It led to some concerns about the long-term potential of the Renault project, but the French manufacturer remained committed to continuing with Ricciardo beyond 2020.
But with the market moving quickly after Vettel's Ferrari exit was decided, Ricciardo was snapped up by McLaren to partner Lando Norris from 2021 on a multi-year deal.
"I am so grateful for my time with Renault and the way I was accepted into the team," Ricciardo wrote on Twitter following the announcement.
"But we aren't done and I can't wait to get back on the grid this year. My next chapter isn't here yet, so let's finish this one strong. Merci."
The announcement now leaves a vacant seat at Renault for 2021 alongside Esteban Ocon.
Two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso has been linked with the seat given his free agent status. The Spaniard won both his titles during his first stint with Renault between 2003 and 2006, and returned for 2008-09 after an ill-fated year at McLaren.
Abiteboul recently talked up the possibility of one of Renault's academy drivers moving into F1, a goal it had publicly targeted for the 2021 season. Renault currently has Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard racing in Formula 2.
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