Column | Ambitious statements and goals now cost Abiteboul his job

12-01-2021 10:21
Column | Ambitious statements and goals now cost Abiteboul his job

Renault has opted for a change of course with Laurent Rossi as the new CEO of the Alpine F1 project. Cyril Abiteboul has to make way and that is actually not surprising. Little has been achieved of all the objectives set in 2016. 

Renault back in Formula 1

In 2016, Renault returned to Formula 1 with a lot of expectation. After years of being criticised by Red Bull Racing that their engine wasn't good enough, Renault knew that as an engine supplier in Formula 1, there was little honour to be gained. They had to start up their own team again and Abiteboul was put in charge.

Abiteboul was no stranger to the French organisation. Abiteboul had managed to work his way up within the ranks of Renault since first arriving in 2001 and, after a trip to Caterham, also had the experience as team boss. The Frenchman thus seemed the ideal man to lead Renault to success.

Ambitious goals

After all, those successes had to come. To return to Formula 1 as a team, the French car manufacturer had to put a lot of money into the project, so ambitions were tough. A five-year plan was drawn up and also announced. Renault drivers had to be on the podium again in 2018 and from 2020 Renault had to compete for the world title.

However, things turned out a little differently. In 2018, Renault made a good step forward, by finishing fourth among the manufacturers, but the promised podiums did not come yet. In 2019, Renault had to make the step to the top and according to Abiteboul, the investment of 20 million in a top driver was needed to make that step.

Poor estimation by Abiteboul

However, the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo did not make the car any better. The driver turned out to be just as good as his equipment and the homework was not done by Renault for 2019. It was beaten by customers McLaren and dropped a spot in the constructors' championship. The top three seemed further away than ever.

In 2020, the year in which Renault should compete for the world title for the first time, there seemed to be a huge opportunity due to the decline of Ferrari. However, Renault had focused on the new rules of 2021 and saw 2020 as a gap year. Not what Daniel Ricciardo wanted to hear, especially now that the regulations from 2021 have been moved to 2022.

It was typical that Ricciardo announced his 2021 move to rivals and customer team McLaren before the start of the 2020 season. The Australian clearly had no confidence in a bright future at Renault and saw more in the McLaren project, which had taken a significant step forward with Andreas Seidl and James Key at the helm.

Alonso cannot save Abiteboul

This loss was a hammer blow for Renault and certainly also for Abiteboul. Ricciardo had to make sure that Renault could get back to the top, but two years later Renault was 40 million and a star driver poorer. If Ricciardo no longer has faith in Renault's project, then who will?

Fernando Alonso is the name. The Spaniard saw an opportunity to return to Formula 1 and can do so with his old team. It brought life back to the Renault factory and that even ensured that three podium places were achieved. Two of them by Ricciardo, who, despite his announced departure, continued to push Renault forward towards better results.

The new direction of Alpine

However, it no longer worked for Abiteboul. At first, he was presented as the new CEO of the new Alpine F1 project, but it is only natural that he will be dismissed. The goals have not been achieved. Only two years later were the podium places achieved, while the finances for that year were budgeted for a world title.

Abiteboul has been given quite a bit of time from Renault, but the loss against customer teams such as Racing Point and especially McLaren put Abiteboul's position under pressure. The fact that McLaren could just shoot past the Renaults, clearly showed that something fundamentally went wrong at Renault. Abiteboul is responsible for this and so it is only logical that Renault finally opts for a breath of fresh air.

This article was written and originally published by Tim on the Dutch edition of

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