“He makes his decision in April or May; the world is at a standstill, we don’t know how we’re going to get back on track, if we’re going to get back on track," Abiteboul said.
“In fact, I think it’s a very early move, a bit selfish – because in the end, it will have given the team just one season’s chance, and so it’s true that it’s a decision that I’m taking badly. Badly.”
Abiteboul added that he took Ricciardo's decision to heart as it felt like a "personal rejection", noting that the team signed him too early in its development and he left his own job in a perilous position as a result.
“That evening, I went to my favourite restaurant in Marseille with my partner and I said to her: ‘Tonight, we toast two things," Abiteboul reflected on the night Ricciardo signed for Renault. "One, to the fact that we’ve signed Ricciardo, who’s a great driver. Two, to the fact that in two years’ time, I’ll be sacked’."
Ricciardo 'leaves too early'
The 46-year-old believes the Austrian driver has a habit of abandoning his post prematurely.
“The team was in the process of structuring itself and getting organised," added the Frenchman.
"We were making progress, but that means we were not at Red Bull’s level. He came from the standard environment, Red Bull, and so inevitably there was a feeling of being demoted.
“I don’t think [Ricciardo] could have imagined the [Renault] car making such progress, and neither could we. I can also understand his strategy. McLaren sold him a bit of a bill of goods to get him, but that’s part of the game.
"Ricciardo always has a timing problem: he left us too early and he left McLaren too early.”
Having left Renault F1 at the end of the 2020 season, Abiteboul now holds the position of team principal for Hyundai's World Rally Championship, overseeing the team's success with two victories in 2023.
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