Ricciardo addresses latest Renault break-up

Daniel Ricciardo has opened up on his split with Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg, wishing the German well and also laying down a challenge to his incoming partner.

Hulkenberg will be released by Renault at the end of the season and replaced by Esteban Ocon, who has been granted permission by Mercedes to start testing with the French team after the final grand prix of the year in Abu Dhabi.

In his first season with Renault after splitting with Red Bull at the end of last year, Ricciardo has outperformed Hulkenberg and Renault decided to drop the 32-year-old from its driver line-up in 2020.

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He is languishing in 13th in the drivers' standings, four spots behind Ricciardo. The Aussie star believes Hulkenberg has more to give in the sport but is confident he'll find his way in life even if he's not picked up by another team.

"He's cool," Ricciardo said, according to the official F1 website. "I certainly think he still has time in the sport if he wants it. His ability is certainly there to do it.

"I don't fear for him if he doesn't come back to F1. He's a pretty switched on kid, he's quite business savvy so if he goes on to do other things he'll be OK."

Ricciardo, who at times endured a testy relationship with Max Verstappen at Red Bull, praised Hulkenberg for making life easy as he settled into a new team.

"It's been pretty easygoing," Ricciardo said. "He has been easy to work with, does what he has to do and doesn't really kick up a fuss.

"Also I do believe coming into the season we both had respect for each other and I think that helps, as far as we don't feel the need to do anything weird. I don't want to say I've had that in the past, I haven't had that, but it made the transition of me coming into this team quite easy.

"Pre-season, we had a bit of a laugh, after the races we might go see each other and have a drink at a party."

 

Ocon hasn't had a gig with an F1 team this season, instead serving as Mercedes' reserve driver behind Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

The Frenchman debuted in an F1 grand prix with the now-defunct Manor team in Belgium in 2016 before joining Force India, where he spent two seasons before being recruited by the Silver Arrows.

Ricciardo said the pair will be fine as long as there is a mutual respect but suggested they won't need to be "best mates".

"I'm sure he does respect me, but will he want to come in and set himself up in the team? Absolutely," Ricciardo said.

"Again, there'll be that competitive respect - as long as there's that. I want to beat him, he wants to beat me, we're not silly. We've done this thing once or twice before, but as long as there's respect for each other that's what we need.

"We don't need to be best mates either but we'll get on with it and try to get it going."

Renault has had a disappointing campaign in 2019. After declaring it wanted to lead the midfield behind big guns Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, the Enstone-based team has slumped to fifth in the constructors' championship behind McLaren.

Toro Rosso is only eight points adrift of Renault in sixth and can overtake Ricciardo and Co. with a strong showing in Abu Dhabi in two weekends.

News Corp Australia

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