Despite the headlines around the world about how shocking this move is, I’ll be honest, I’m not shocked in the least. In fact, I’ve mentioned this move previously and felt that Daniel Ricciardo or even Fernando Alonso returning to the team might be something interesting and could be possible.
Renault signing Nico Hulkenberg was a big move in the right direction for many reasons, getting Carlos Sainz last year was good but on the balance of it, Carlos hasn’t quite delivered the results that would keep him in that seat should the team get a look at the likes of Ricciardo or Alonso.
As I mentioned last year, the team are not Lotus F1 of Genii Capital days, they are a factory team and as such, they are dealing with aggressive budgets and re-developing a team that was poached or left during the desperate days of Lotus F1.
Bob Bell is stepping down and the team will need to raise their game on engine reliability and chassis / aerodynamic development in order to make the next step. They don’t have Adrian Newey like Red Bull does and that’s the difference between the two teams this year, a better chassis.
There is a crossover point when the car gets to a development stage that demands the best drivers you can get and not just drivers who happen to be available or have financial backing. We discussed this on a recent podcast with regards to Haas F1 and clearly Renault are to that point so adding Ricciardo and Hulkenberg to the equation is a big move in the right direction. The team will not be leaving anything on the table from a driver perspective on any given Sunday and the same cannot be said of Haas F1 etc.
Interesting that it is a two-year deal. My hunch is that Daniel knows that Red Bull’s first year with Honda engines is going to see the team take a step backward. I could be completely wrong but I suspect that will be a result. In the long run, however, it is a brilliant move by Red Bull to get their own engine manufacturer and complete what McLaren were trying to do. Red Bull will push Honda hard to develop using two teams to do so.
If I had to guess, I would say the Honda/Red Bull combination will pay dividends in a couple of seasons but that’s two more years that Renault can develop too and the regulation changes coming may change the playing field for everyone.
Then you have to factor in the Max Factor. Daniel isn’t keen on playing second fiddle on any team and to be honest, I will be very interested to see how Daniel’s presence on the team impacts Nico’s performance. Dan is a known entity and on first blush you might think he’ll leave Nico in the dust but I’m not 100% sure about that. I think Nico will raise his game and that leaves two cars finishing well into the points which is what they need.
As for Carlos, will he go back to Red Bull to replace Daniel? If I am Christian Horner, it’s a safe bet because I have Max. There is Pierre Gasly to consider but is he ready for primetime at the big team? Carlos has the experience. There is some speculation about Force India, Haas or other mid-field teams but if I am Carlos, I am looking at Daniel’s empty seat.
Renault Press Release:
Renault Sport Formula One Team is pleased to confirm Daniel Ricciardo will join the team from the 2019 season. He will team up with current driver Nico Hülkenberg.
Twenty-nine-year-old Daniel, who hails from Perth, Australia, joins Renault Sport Formula One Team for the next two seasons.
Daniel has secured seven Grands Prix wins and stepped onto the podium 29 times. He is already very familiar with the Renault family, having driven in Renault junior series between 2007 and 2011 and has been powered by Renault engines in F1 since 2014.
Jérôme Stoll, President, Renault Sport Racing:
“Renault decided to come back to Formula One to fight for World Championships. Signing Daniel Ricciardo is a unique opportunity for the Groupe Renault towards this objective that could not be missed. We welcome Daniel’s arrival to our team, still in the making, but more motivated than ever.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport Racing:
“Daniel’s signing underscores our determination to accelerate our progress towards the forefront of the sport. It is also a recognition of the work accomplished over the past two and a half seasons. Daniel’s undoubted talent and charisma are a huge bonus and statement for the team. We will have to repay his faith in us by delivering the best car possible. We welcome him to our growing team in 2019 with a great deal of pride, but also humility.”
“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions to take in my career so far. But I thought that it was time for me to take on a fresh and new challenge. I realise that there is a lot ahead in order to allow Renault to reach their target of competing at the highest level but I have been impressed by their progression in only two years, and I know that each time Renault has been in the sport they eventually won. I hope to be able to help them in this journey and contribute on and off track.”