Boss’s bold claim after Ricciardo burn
Daniel Ricciardo is under pressure to deliver for Renault but his boss has complete faith in his new recruit, respecting the Australian F1 star for making a decision that will help turn him into an "adult".
Cyril Abiteboul was disappointed with the former Red Bull star's first outing for the French team when he retired 32 laps into the Australian Grand Prix after veering off track and ripping his front wing off just seconds after lights out.
But he believes Ricciardo showed great maturity by deciding to leave the only F1 team he's ever known in the off-season, which will help him develop a greater sense of independence.
Abiteboul's bold claim comes after he delivered a harsh reality check to Ricciardo following the race Albert Park, declaring he needs thicker skin and more patience.
The West Australian said his new helmet design for season 2019, which carries the phrase "stop being them", is a message of intent to follow his instincts, and Abiteboul believes it represents his new-found intent to become his own man after leaving the cosy confines of Red Bull.
"That decision (to leave Red Bull) has made of him a full grown up adult, like when you decide to leave the family's house and be capable of living and accomplishing yourself as an individual," Abiteboul told Speedcafe.com.
"I think that sort of statement on his helmet, that's very clear what's going on there.
"We are trying to create an environment at the same time that's relaxed, fun, warm, but very professional and focused and I think he likes that."
Earlier this month reports emerged Ricciardo was on an annual salary of $49 million with Renault. He rubbished those reports and Abiteboul has added he doesn't believe the 29-year-old left Red Bull for financial reasons, despite reports he was earning less than junior teammate Max Verstappen.
Instead Abiteboul pointed to the potential to build something substantial with Renault, again referencing the treatment of Ricciardo as an "adult", as to why the driver jumped ship.
"I think what we've done during those meetings was simply be honest and treating him like an adult, like a grown up that obviously he is," Abiteboul said, per Speedcafe.com.
"We have not tried to represent ourselves better or different from what we actually are.
"I think we come with some level of honestly with our project, a project that is bigger than just racing a car; it's really something important.
"So having a responsibility in contributing to that, I think he liked, was up for the challenge."
Renault now looks ahead to the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend where it hopes to erase the sour memories of Melbourne. Ricciardo failed to finish the season-opener after admitting he underperformed in qualifying during what was a disappointing weekend, but teammate Nico Hulkengberg picked up some points by crossing the line in seventh.
Abiteboul said the team can no longer accept mediocre results as it aims to be the best of the midfield pack behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
"In seasons gone by, we would have been satisfied with a seventh-place finish at the first race of the season, but this year we were a little disappointed," Abiteboul said in a team preview.
"We feel our car is capable of fighting at the top end of the midfield. However, that wasn't always displayed when it really counted in qualifying and during the race.
"We are determined to show more in Bahrain. We have to underline the step we've made on the engine side, and the second grand prix of 2019 is an opportunity to showcase that. We will bring some aero updates, as we will do at every race.
"We also need to target consistency over the course of the entire weekend, delivering a balanced and reliable car in all sessions to allow the drivers to extract respective maximum performance.
"Having both cars inside the points is the target and we want to show the qualities of our team. We have to be hard on ourselves if we're to keep on our path."
Speaking in a Q&A on the Renault website, Ricciardo said he's "keen to put Australia to one side" as he aims for a better showing in Bahrain.
"It was a pretty frustrating weekend overall, even more so as the pace was clearly there for a good result," Ricciardo said. "In qualifying, I personally felt I left something out there, which meant our starting spot wasn't ideal.
"There's not too much to say about the race. I quite like the circuit in Bahrain and I hope for an improved weekend. I've had a bit of rest and recovery between these two race weekends, so I head there feeling recharged.
"Hopefully we can be in amongst it this weekend, but first we need to ensure we're quick in qualifying and be at the top end of the midfield."