‘Expensive’ Ricciardo just the start for Renault
FORMULA 1 legend Alain Prost's recent interview with an English newspaper would have been sweet music to the ears of Daniel Ricciardo.
As the Aussie was pushing through a disappointing week at the Singapore Grand Prix, where he finished sixth and watched teammate Max Verstappen finish second, Renault chief adviser Prost was revealing the French team's ambitious goals for the future.
The four-time world champion told The Guardian his campaign to return Renault to the pinnacle of Formula 1 had already begun.
Having returned to the team as a wide-ranging adviser, Prost said his recent moves alongside team boss Cyril Abiteboul had all been focused on achieving the team's goal of long-term sustained success.
He admitted the challenge of trying to push from fourth in the constructor's championship to a title contender in the next few years was too irresistible to say no to when he was offered his position last year.
"I like a return," he said.
"If it was going to Mercedes today - they're at the top - I don't think I would have the motivation. Now it's so difficult to get back to the top that I find it very interesting."
Prost said a key part of his future plans was Aussie driver Ricciardo.
The 29-year-old's two-year deal with Renault, beginning in 2019, is reportedly worth up to $70 million.
Prost said Ricciardo was a "expensive" investment for the team, but insisted it was justified.
He said the team was prepared to spend big when needed.
"Daniel is more expensive than other drivers," Prost said.
"When you need that to help the team we did it. Money is not a problem, but it has to be justified.
"We have two top drivers, maybe one of the best line-ups in Formula One today. They are Renault drivers, not owned by Red Bull or Mercedes. It shows everybody outside and inside that we want to do the best, the right choices at the right moment."
Renault's budget and resources as a fully manufacturer-backed team since 2016 was one of the reasons Ricciardo listed for his shock decision to leave Red Bull at the end of this season.
Prost's declarations supported team principal Abiteboul's bold future goals that persuaded Ricciardo to join the team.
Abiteboul said last month: "It's a new type of challenge because here he's not just going to drive, to come here Friday morning and leave on Sunday night.
"It's more than a three-day job. He's going to be driving the charge for the next stint of Renault in Formula 1, just like Nico Hulkenberg has been from ninth (in the constructors' championship, in 2016) to fourth, where we are today.
"The next stint will be in Daniel's hands and I think he realises that. It's a big responsibility but I think he sees that as an honour and extremely exciting."
Ricciardo, however, won't be under any illusions heading to Renault.
Renault is one of just three manufacturer-backed teams in F1, and Abiteboul is brutally honest about the team's progress - including the fact Ricciardo will likely have to wait until 2020 at least to win races again.
"I don't want to see any disappointment or frustration when he first drives for us, whenever that will be," Abiteboul said.
"So I think it's our honesty, maybe, that has paid off.
"It doesn't always pay off in the world of Formula One, which can sometimes be full of arrogance. And I think he liked the fact that we are very determined in our ambitions, but we are not taking ourselves seriously enough to lie about the situation in which we are."