Ricciardo facing 2021 F1 uncertainty
DANIEL Ricciardo could be set to shake up the F1 drivers market yet again in 2020 after a stunning admission from Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
Ricciardo joined Renault in a move that shocked the grid last season, ending his time with Red Bull, where he had made a name for himself.
Signing a two-year, reportedly lucrative deal with the French manufacturer from this year, Ricciardo has been positive on the development of the team.
It seemed to be strong results could see Ricciardo stick around for longer.
And after a fourth-placed finish at the Italian Grand Prix, Renault and Ricciardo seemed to have turned a corner.
While it had been a dire season for the team, Ricciardo's fourth and Nico Hulkenberg in fifth pushed Renault to fifth on the constructor standings behind McLaren and the big three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
But despite the statement from the 30-year-old Ricciardo and 32-year-old Hulkenberg, Renault are looking to change it up and go with a younger star from their academy pool in 2021.
After signing Mercedes young gun Esteban Ocon, who is just 22, on a two-year deal from 2020, Renault may feel a changing of the guard is coming after the success of the likes of 21-year-old pair Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc who lead the young brigade coming into the sport.
Whether the plan is coming from Ricciardo or Renault, it leaves the Aussie as the likely driver facing an uncertain future as Ocon would still have a year remaining on his contract.
Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said it was the right time for "some fresher blood".
"It was important when given the opportunity to seize the opportunity of a complete driver in Daniel last year and we don't regret that at Renault," he told RaceFans.net.
"I think it's a trend actually you can see in several teams. We are also interested in young drivers with our academy. We hope and expect to have possibly one driver from that academy by 2021. So it's also a shift of dynamic to start really welcoming young drivers in our line-up.
"It's not something that we would have been capable of doing two years ago but I think with more maturity in the team we can now envisage that. And that would be a good test to see if we are capable of also managing that because it's a different type of management. Managing some who is 20, 22 or in his thirties, that's different."
Where Ricciardo could end up is anyone's guess but the star has been strongly linked to Formula One giant Ferrari with even more discussion about Sebastian Vettel being on the outer after the Italian Grand Prix.
After a brilliant drive at Monza and handing Renault its best result at the track since 2008, Ricciardo has shown he's still got it, moving up to eighth on the drivers championship.
"I want to give a special shout out - obviously I'm happy for the whole team, but to the boys in Viry, building the engines," he said.
"They've copped a lot of grief in the last few years and they've made some big gains this year on the power unit, so this one's for them."
As for hunting down McLaren, who are 18 points ahead of them on the constructors championship, Abiteboul said "it's completely doable" for Renault to retain their position as the best of the rest in 2019.
As for 2020, Ocon has admitted he's eager to pass on what he's learned in his career so far.
The Frenchman was one of the Racing Point Force India drivers before he was forced out by Lance Stroll, who's father bought the team and renamed it Racing Point.
But he's also been the third driver for Mercedes and has had a first hand view of the champion team, an asset which would make him a valuable asset for any team.
"I'm currently working with the world champion team which has dominated Formula 1 for a few years. I learned a lot from Mercedes this year," Ocon told Auto Motor und Sport.
"I will also contribute my experiences with Force India. You must not forget my time in other racing series, like the DTM for example.
"I see certain things from a different angle and bring in a new perspective. They expect that from me.
"They want fresh air, advice and a different way of thinking. I hope I can help move the team forward."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted Ocon would be "faded out" of his role at Mercedes as the focus increasingly shifts to the 2020 season.