WDaniel Ricciardo made the tough decision to end his tenure at Renault and it still “hurts” him when he has to think about his association with the team.
The deal that would see Ricciardo join McLaren was made public in May. Subsequently, Cyril Abiteboul had taken a shot at the Australian driver without taking his name.
While confirming Ricciardo’s exit, Abiteboul spoke about the need for “reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment”, saying these were critical values that everyone should have.
While he did not mention Ricciardo directly, it was clear that things were not absolutely rosy.
In the Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive, Ricciardo reveals why he decided it was time to try his luck at a new team.
“Can I win with all cars finishing? It still hurts to say this…the reality is no,” he said.
“Deep down I knew I had to leave.”
The fifth episode of the series harbours on the relationship between Ricciardo and Abiteboul and the circumstances that led to the Honey Badger’s exit.
“Every single one of us at Renault, our focus is on the stability of the team. Pure focus on this season’s performance,” Abiteboul says in the episode.
“We need to be in a position for podiums and then fight for wins and then fight for championships – but Daniel has put a stop to all of that.”
Abiteboul almost ignores Ricciardo as the two cross paths in the season opener.
“Is Cyril talking to you yet?” Red Bull boss Christian Horner asks with a smile. Everyone knows what is going on.
“Yeah… yeah,” Ricciardo answers.
It is fair to say that Horner has the best idea about how Abiteboul would be feeling, given the fact that Ricciardo left Red Bull in the middle of the 2018 season to join Renault.
“It’s probably a bit like being dumped by a girlfriend but she hasn’t moved out of the house yet,” he said.
“It must be an odd dynamic for Cyril, knowing for the entirety of the season he’s going to their biggest competitor. It is tough.
“You naturally shut down to that individual because they’ve left you. Cyril no doubt took that very personally.”
While Abiteboul tried his best not to get personally involved, it was inevitable.
“What’s hurting the most is it’s not the long-term project I thought we signed up for,” Abiteboul said.
Sleepless nights for Ricciardo
Ricciardo admitted that he had had sleepless nights in the build-up to this decision of quitting Renault.
“Last year there was always conversations going with McLaren. I think they made the biggest step out of any team in 2019.
“I did take my age into account. I’m 31. I can’t afford to chance any more seasons. I just felt McLaren was in a better place than Renault was and that’s what drove me to that decision.”
Abiteboul admitted that they did not speak for a while.
“I am emotional,” he said.
“I am Latin. I am a bit Mediterranean and French. So I am emotional. I’m not going to change what I am.
“It’s immensely difficult but it’s really important to leave the emotion on one side. With Daniel and myself, I don’t want to build bridges artificially.”
‘He’s making a mistake’
Abiteboul outwardly said that Ricciardo was making a mistake by quitting the team and questioned his commitment once more in the episode.
“Frankly, I think he’s making a mistake,” he said.
“The drivers with the biggest results, biggest success have also been the ones that have been able to take the time and bring stability in their own life, in their own career.
“Right now I have to accept our priority is to believe in the dynamic with Daniel.”
The episode ends with Ricciardo earning a hard-fought fourth-place finish in the British Grand Prix.
As far as the mood and atmosphere between the two is concerned, this proved to change things.
Abiteboul even said that some bridges may have been repaired.
“Here today, after what we have achieved together, maybe all of us are a bit closer.”
Mixed emotions for Abiteboul
However, Abiteboul admitted that seeing Ricciardo taste success left him with mixed emotions.
“One thing I must say, watching Daniel right now, it’s something that’s making me feel the frustration and disappointment,” he said.
“Not just for what we have achieved so far together but also for what he would achieve after that. But he decided to make the decision when he decided to make it with just one year together in such a short horizon of time.
“I am in the process of rebuilding my relationship with him. Even though I have full confidence he will regret his decision.”
Ricciardo himself is not certain he has made the right decision, but it is a risk he is willing to take.
“I don’t know if it’s the best call I’ve ever made or not,” he said.
“I’ve obviously in a way taken a bit of a punt. It could swing either way.”
The episode ends on a light note, with the 31-year-old Ricciardo saying, “I’ll need a whisky”.