Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to join Renault for this year’s Formula 1 world championship has been likened to leaving the family home by team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
Ricciardo made his debut for Renault at the Australian Grand Prix, his first F1 appearance without the support of Red Bull, in what proved a difficult race for the Perth native.
After running onto the grass off the start and damaging his front wing, Ricciardo ran towards the back of the pack before the team called him into the garage to retire midway through the race.
But while his debut with the team didn’t go to plan, Abiteboul believes his new recruit is world championship material and suggests his move to the French squad is like leaving the family home.
“That decision has made of him a full grown up adult, like when you decide to leave the family’s house and be capable of living and accomplishing yourself as an individual,” Abiteboul told Speedcafe.com.
“I think that sort of statement on his helmet (stop being them), that’s very clear what’s going on there.
“We are trying to create an environment at the same time that’s relaxed, fun, warm, but very professional and focused and I think he likes that.”
Ricciardo’s helmet has historically been emblazoned with Red Bull branding however, with greater commercial freedom this season, he’s adopted a unique design created by Australian artist Ornamental Conifer.
It left some to suggest the slogan adorning the right side was a jibe at his former employer, though Ricciardo insists it’s a reflection of his individuality.
“It’s not targeted at Red Bull, but just having the freedom to do whatever I want, I figured why not go for something crazy and different,” he explained.
“So, ‘stop being them’ is basically just encouragement to be yourself and don’t follow trends. If you like going a certain way, then be bold and do it.”
Abiteboul also quashed suggestions the switch was purely a financial one from Ricciardo.
The Frenchman believes an honest approach during negotiations, which didn’t shy away from the challenges ahead, left Ricciardo feeling he could be instrumental in building Renault.
“I think what we’ve done during those meetings was simply be honest and treating him like an adult, like a grown up that obviously he is,” Abiteboul said of the negotiating process.
“We have not tried to represent our self better or different from what we actually are.
“I think we come with some level of honestly with our project, a project that is bigger than just racing a car; it’s really something important.
“Renault is a factory team. It’s a very big car maker; 40 years of very successful history in the sport.
“So having a responsibility in contributing to that, I think he liked, was up for the challenge.
“We’ve been extremely steady and consistent in our approach also on the commercial side,” he added.
“We have not tried to be silly about that, all the speculation about his salary are completely crap and I really want to take that away.
“He’s clearly not here for the money, I mean it’s no different to what he would have received at Red Bull or anywhere else. That’s not the driving force behind his decision.
“So I think it’s all of that that he appreciated and I guess that made the difference.”