Daniel Ricciardo is not joining Renault until 2019 but the team is already feeling a lift from the Australian’s imminent arrival, according to technical director Nick Chester.
Renault pulled off one of the biggest surprises in F1’s recent history of driver moves by convincing Ricciardo to leave Red Bull during the summer break. Since joining that team in 2014 Ricciardo has established himself as one of the grid’s best talents, claiming seven victories.
Renault is in the steady process of rebuilding its factory outfit, which returned to the grid in 2016 after purchasing the Lotus team. The French manufacturer has set itself the long-term goal of returning to a championship-winning position and Chester feels the addition of Ricciardo highlights how serious it is to achieving that.
When asked why this was the right time to make such a big-name signing, he replied: “I think it’s always the right time, if it makes you quicker. If that’s a better driver that’s great.
“It pushed the team on, it will help with development. I think it is right. It also shows that commitment, it’s a big deal to show to everybody that Renault believe in us enough to get a top-line driver. So we need to go on and do the rest of it.”
With development for 2019 ongoing, Chester admits it increases the motivation to deliver a great car.
“It certainly focused the mind, you know you have to make a very good car for him, but everyone is fired up — we know if we give him the right equipment he’ll deliver with it. So it’s very positive … We know we’ve got a very strong driver pairing to work with next year.”