Renault say Daniel Ricciardo has shown faith in their future plans, as the French team aim to go on the “attack” from F1 2019.
Ricciardo’s arrival at the Enstone team from rivals Red Bull represents the big driver switch of the off-season ahead of Renault’s fourth season back as a team owner.
And Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski believes Ricciardo’s decision to join them reflects well on the team’s ambitions.
“It’s a great buzz to have someone like Daniel who decides to join us, which shows a trust in the project, what we’re trying to achieve, and also a desire to be involved,” Budkowski told Sky Sports News.
“The day he was announced here everybody was very, very excited and coupling him with Nico [Hulkenberg], who had a very strong season last season and the last couple of years, we have one of the best line-ups on the grid.”
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F1 2019: All the key details
Renault’s fourth-place finish in 2018’s Constructors’ Championship was a two-place improvement on the previous year, but the gap to the established top three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull remained a large one.
Budkowski says progress up the standings has been “completely in line with our targets” so far but that “the challenge starts now in terms of closing the gap to the top three”.
“When Renault decided to come back in Formula 1 and bought the team in Enstone there was a six-year plan,” he said.
“The first three years were three years of reconstruction and the next three years were labelled three years of attack. By attack it means going to fight with the top guys.
“So we have done the three years of reconstruction, we are there or thereabouts in terms of rebuilding the team both in terms of an infrastructure point of view and a human point of view with a big recruitment carried out.
“Now it’s three years where we are expecting to progressively catch the top three and go and challenge them for wins and, hopefully, championships.”
Do the new rules increase Renault’s chances?
F1 cars will look different in 2019 owing to aerodynamic rule changes aimed at increasing overtaking opportunities and Budkowski believes there is a window of opportunity for the midfield teams to close up on the Big Three.
“They are simplifying the cars quite a lot so we’ve lost quite a lot of performance initially – I believe that’s the case for everybody – but we have regained a chunk of this performance,” said Budkowski.
“In terms of mixing the playing field, we feel that the top teams will have lost more than us, probably, by definition because they were better, more optimised and had extracted more performance from the aerodynamic platform they had.
“But they are also better equipped to regain it quicker because they have bigger structures, more resource and they had the understanding and experience that allowed them to reach that level of optimisation.”
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