Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul says that the French constructor wouldn’t say no to a swoop for Sebastian Vettel for the 2021 season, but admits they would prefer to go for someone younger.
Daniel Ricciardo’s contract with Renault expires at the end of the 2020 season, with speculation mounting that Ferrari could make a play for his services, which would mean the end at the Scuderia for Vettel.
The German could indeed move in the other direction, though, according to Abiteboul.
"I don't want to say no, as he is a great driver, and a great champion. We worked together on the engine side and we won together,” he told Canal+ in reference to Vettel’s titles with Red Bull, powered by Renault.
"[But] I rather aspire to work with tomorrow's drivers than yesterday's. It really is very difficult to sum it up like that, so please don't sum it up like that about Sebastian.
"Still, we also have a driver academy, with drivers who might come out of it in 2021 or 2022. We need to keep this in mind, as we created this academy in 2016 with the goal of having a driver graduate to F1 in 2021.
"Now 2021 is coming, we have to acknowledge it. Typically, there's Christian Lundgaard. He's an option among others: he's got his F2 season to do, we've got our own season to do with Daniel."
However, the priority remains to retain Ricciardo, who is currently the third best-paid driver on the grid after his shock move from Red Bull.
"We've got to retain him [Ricciardo] based on good foundations, shared foundations," Abiteboul explained.
"The project is what matters. I'm answering the question without really answering it, but I think we need to wait and see the first races.
"Have we made a step forward? Are we recovering a little more confidence compared to last year? Is he still integrating better within the team? Then, if we feel like we've got a long-term project, why not?"
The start of the 2020 F1 season is yet to begin due to the outbreak of the coronavirus around the world, with the first race in Australia cancelled at the last minute last week.
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