Alonso capture not a snub to our academy - Renault
Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul is adamant the manufacturer remains committed to its academy drivers after signing Fernando Alonso into a Formula 1 race seat for 2021.
The decision to bring in Alonso at such an early stage of the season, especially with Chinese driver Guan Yu Zhou one of the favourites for the F2 title, has been seen by some as a vote of no confidence in Renault's youth set-up, something Abiteboul says could not be further from the truth.
"I can expect after our decision to rejoin with Fernando [this] could be seen as a lack of interest or loyalty towards our own project of the Renault Sport Academy," said Abiteboul. "I want to be extremely clear that it is not.
"The plan of the academy was to be able to have a driver joining Formula 1 in 2021, and who knows, this may be the case."
One potential issue for a driver like Zhou is that if he is crowned F2 champion this season, he would not be allowed to return to the series, and so could face a year without racing in 2021.
Alternatively, Zhou could decide to move on from Renault, a decision taken by Williams reserve and F2 driver Jack Aitken at the end of 2019.
For Renault, as it has no customers for power units in 2021, it has no leverage to position a driver within another team, a practice used to good effect by Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
Abiteboul continued: “Let’s face it, this year this [Covid-19] crisis has had many impacts, many severe impacts, one of which is to delay the season, and therefore to delay or [the] ability to judge the performance of the two eldest from our academy -Guan Yu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard.
“Both of them had an extremely good weekend [in Austria]. Zhou, in particular, could have won the race, and Christian was P4 in his first race without any winter test.
"So we are very serious about the academy, very serious about those two in particular, and the plan will remain to see if they can join Formula 1.
"Indeed, I am sure that Fernando, like Esteban [Ocon] has lots to bring also to their own development."
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