Nico Hülkenberg’s time with Renault ends at the end of the current season. The German, who drove for the UK Enstone based French team for three years, loses his place to Esteban Ocon.
On the one hand, he is ten years younger than Hülkenberg and, as a Frenchman on paper, fits better into a French factory team. However, Cyril Abiteboul emphasises that these two factors “have no special influence on the Formula 1 program”.
“It’s simply about being competitive – especially more competitive than this season, which is our goal. There are some positive things, but we have to improve,” explains the team boss and makes it clear: “It was on this basis that we made our decision. He reveals: “If age can help us achieve this goal, then of course we won’t say no to it”.
“And I think there’s a generation of drivers who might be better able to handle what the car expects,” says Abiteboul and continues: “When you’re in your twenties, there’s a different dynamic and you’re at a different point in your career. This may enable you to accept certain limitations of the car better and deal with them.”
“Later you might expect a little more….” perhaps hinting at the fact Hulkenberg simply hasn’t ‘kicked on’ in his career.
While Hülkenberg is already in a later stage of his career at 32, Ocon is still relatively at the beginning. Ocon’s nationality was also a “plus” in the choice, but not a necessity. “That wouldn’t do justice to his driving skills,” Abiteboul makes clear.
First and foremost, Ocon was hired to finally attack the front runners in 2021. “That must be the plan,” Abiteboul says, but at the same time he reminds us that it’s still a long way to go. “It takes time. Perhaps a little more time than we would have wished. We live in a world where short-term results are expected,” he explains, hinting to the obvious performances over recent years of Verstappen and now Leclerc.
Originally, Renault wanted to fight for the title as early as 2020. This goal has already been revised back a year. Abiteboul explains that it is “very difficult” to catch up with the top three teams. They are “well established, well financed and extremely well organised,” he recalls. “But that’s what we’re going to try and I think Esteban can help us,” says Abiteboul.
The Renault boss did also claim some weeks ago that the fact that they had inherited a Lotus car for 2016 season, of which they couldn’t really change, set them back in their original goal of a 2020 Championship fight. Read more on that here.
“The changes for 2021 are so big that we need to think carefully about how we share our resources. Esteban knows that,” he says. By 2020, we want to “learn” together and get used to each other in the first place, and then attack 2021 at the front. Reading between the lines, it is clear that the Renault senior management thinks Ocon is more likely to have this patience than Hülkenberg.
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