Formula one driver Daniel Ricciardo may be leaving Renault for McLaren, but his contribution over two years to the rising French team has been described by his now ex-boss as “exceptional”.
Ahead of last night’s final race of a disrupted 2020 season, Renault’s team principal Cyril Abiteboul said the Australian had ensured a legacy at Renault which could be built on for further success.
Ricciardo started only 12th in Monday morning’s (AEST) night’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Abiteboul said the ‘chirpy’ driver had brought a professionalism to the team that would hold it in good stead in 2021.
“When the team signed Daniel in 2018, it clearly brought a lot of attention and some raised eyebrows in the paddock. It marked a statement of intent, coupled with some pressure from signing a multiple Grand Prix winner,” Abiteboul said in a statement.
“The objectives after strong progress that year were very clear. While 2019 was disappointing from an overall championship perspective, there were memorable moments like in Canada and Italy.
“While those moments were fewer than we’d have liked, having a driver of Daniel’s ability brought clear and required changes to the team and his influence went beyond just driving the car.”
Ricciardo had a shocking start to his Renault career at his home Grand Prix in Melbourne when he went wide at the start in 2019 and smashed the underside of his car on an Albert Park gutter.
The rest of the season also was disappointing, telling The New Daily that he would keep faith with Renault provided he could see a path to developing a world championship winning car.
Forced to make that call before even beginning racing in 2020 because of the corornvirus disruptions, Ricciardo spent time on his farm in Western Australia considering all his options before shocking the formula one paddock with his decision to move to McLaren.
That move looks an even smarter one for Ricciardo with Sunday’s news that US-based investment group MSP Sports Capital has taken a $385 million minority stake in the McLaren team, cashing it up for more on-track development.
Abiteboul was none too pleased about losing Ricciardo the time, but after the Aussie broke the team’s ten-year podium drought with a third placing in Germany and then another at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy everyone now seems happy to declare his time in yellow ‘mission accomplished’.
“This season, Daniel has been admirable in pushing on and his professionalism has been nothing short of exceptional, also after the announcement of his departure for next season,”Abiteboul said.
“The moment in Germany with the first podium was a high point and signalled an important milestone in the team’s journey, which we will build upon.
“The legacy left by Daniel will remain an integral part of our foundation. We look forward to fighting him on track with the team in a much better position courtesy of his influence.
“We thank Daniel for his contribution to the team over the last two years and we wish him the best for his new path.”
Ricciardo will also leave his mark on his boss, with Abiteboul famously losing a bet to get a tattoo deigned by the Australian if Renault snared a podium in 2020. So far there’s been no word on what Ricciardo has in mind, but he has said he has artists working on designs.