Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul says Daniel Ricciardo will still play a crucial role in the team’s development despite leaving at the end of 2020.
Ricciardo called it quits at Renault before turning a wheel in anger this year, opting to join long-term admirers McLaren for 2021.
Such a move historically sees the wantaway frozen out of development discussions and relegated to No.2 driver status.
Abiteboul, however, says neither will be the case for Ricciardo, whose experience will be milked by the French manufacturer until the very end of his lucrative contract.
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A new token system will be in place for 2021, limiting what teams can change on their cars in an attempt to curb the rapid progression of the richer stables.
The rule coincides with McLaren’s switch from Renault to Mercedes power — a major change that will likely see the British outfit use all of its tokens.
As such, Abiteboul has no reservations about keeping Ricciardo in the Renault inner sanctum, as McLaren won’t be able to cash-in on his inside knowledge.
Speaking to reporters ahead of next weekend’s season opener in Austria, he said: “There won’t be any preferential treatment between Esteban [Ocon] and Daniel on the back of his decision, because it’s not the policy of the team.
“It’s not also a necessity, let’s be honest, as I’m not fighting for any championship as we stand here right now.
“It would make absolutely no sense, and Daniel will be involved in the development process of the car.
“With the way that the structure is, that the cars are more or less frozen between this year and next year, and also McLaren will have to use all their tokens on the pure chassis, engine integration, so no performance development there, that will give us the opportunity to work extremely normally with Daniel.”
He added: “The only thing is he won’t be exposed to 2022.
“But frankly he would not be anyway, because it’s still a bit far away from a driver perspective, even though a substantial part of our workforce is already on to 2022.”
Ricciardo accepts there may be some “awkward” moments within the Renault garage when racing resumes, but largely doesn’t expect things to change in the final months of his contract.
“I think because time has passed since the news now, and I’ve spoken, if not seen already, some members of the team, I think it’s really back to business,” Ricciardo said.
“I think we’re all excited to get racing again. Hopefully we get a bundle of races, and hopefully we can get a chance to kind of finish this out strong.
“So from my side it’s certainly put behind me. It’s not in my train of thought at the moment and it won’t be until next year. So yeah, we’ll just get on with it.
“I’ve spent a couple of days in the sim as well, so have seen a few people around the factory and no black eyes or punches in the stomach. So I think we’re all moving on and we’ll give it our all for the rest of the year.”