Why Renault Were Right in Parting Ways With Cyril Abiteboul

Published 01/18/2021, 11:54 PM EST
Formula One F1 – Portuguese Grand Prix – Algarve International Circuit, Portimao, Portugal – October 23, 2020 Renault Sport F1 Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul wearing a face mask FIA/Handout via REUTERS


Since last year, Renault have been undergoing massive changes both on and off the track. Luca de Meo kicked off this chain of events when the board appointed him as the group’s last year. This chain is ending in long-serving Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul’s departure from the team.

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BARCELONA, SPAIN – AUGUST 14: Renault Sport F1 Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul talks in a press conference during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on August 14, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Andy Hone/Pool via Getty Images)

First of all, it is important to acknowledge the contribution of the Frenchman. He spearheaded their quest to get back into Formula 1 in 2016, also playing a part in consolidating the team’s operations in France (engine) and England (headquarters in Enstone).

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Not only that, but he was also playing a major role behind the scenes in the whole rebrand. So, the board duly named him the CEO of Alpine, a position now Laurent Rossi will be taking over.

But here comes the ugly part.

F1 is a result-oriented business and they don’t make a kind reading for Mr. Abiteboul. Before their disgraceful exit in 2009 on the back of the crash gate scandal, they were a championship-contending team. Currently, they are anything but that.

Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – December 11, 2020 Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo during practice Giuseppe Cacace/Pool via REUTERS

Entering the sport as a works team in 2016, they had sky-high ambitions. They wished to be a title contender within five years of their comeback (2020). But during all this time, the team got more recognition for their verbal volleys with Red Bull. So, it is safe to say that they are short of the target they set for themselves.

Ricciardo’s Renault exit played a part

2018 was arguably Cyril’s best year with the team. Not only did he get one over Red Bull and Christian Horner by taking Daniel Ricciardo from under their noses, but they also finished fourth in the constructors’ championship.

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Things were looking bright for them.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 11: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Renault Sport F1 and Renault Sport F1 Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul share a joke at the livery launch of the Renault Sport Formula One Team RS20 during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

But it was as high as they were going to get. Regressing back to fifth place for these last couple of seasons, Ricciardo jumped ship to McLaren as he was beginning to find his feet. This was a huge blow to the team, losing a driver of his caliber at the peak of his racing prowess. Also, the role he played in changing the dynamic was vital.

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Though they brought Fernando Alonso back from his sabbatical, he is 40 and not everyone’s cup of tea, unlike Ricciardo. Hence, Renault seeing the back of Cyril is not something they will live to regret. On the bright side for him, he may no longer need to keep his tattoo bet with Ricciardo!

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Bharat Aggarwal

695 articles

Bharat Aggarwal is a sports analyst for EssentiallySports, covering Formula 1 and NBA. A Delhi University graduate, Bharat has multi-year experience in sports writing, having closely worked with the content strategy aspect as well. Bharat Aggarwal supports Manchester United, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzki, Sachin Tendulkar, Ayrton Senna, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dallas Mavericks.

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