Ricciardo open to offers, but Renault remains 2020 focus

Australian with a big smile on his face at team’s official launch on Feb 12. (AP pic)

PARIS: Daniel Ricciardo says he is “answering all calls” with dream drives at teams like Ferrari possibly becoming vacant in 2021.

But he insisted in Paris on Wednesday that his immediate focus was on the yellow livery of his current employers Renault, rather than the red of the Scuderia.

The Australian was at the French manufacturer’s flagship showroom on the Champs-Elysees for their official 2020 launch.

Joining F1’s ever-smiling equivalent to horse racing’s effervescent Frankie Dettori was Esteban Ocon, who replaces Nico Hulkenberg as his teammate.

Also present was Alain Prost, the four-time world champion, in his role as the team’s new non-executive director, and Pat Fry, the ex-Ferrari and Mercedes technical guru.

The only noticeable absentee was the 2020 car itself.

“The car is in pieces, you’ll see it next week” at the first pre-season testing session in Barcelona, explained team principal Cyril Abiteboul.

Ricciardo and Renault are determined to put a disappointing 2019 behind them and are targeting the fourth place behind the big three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull that they were beaten to by McLaren last term.

“I know in my heart we’ll be better everywhere,” ventured the Perth-born driver who joined from Red Bull on a lucrative two-year deal last year.

Other F1 stars like Ricciardo whose contracts run out at the end of this season include six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari.

“For a lot of drivers it’s an exciting season, because not many of us have a contract right now,” Australia’s best hope of a world champion since 1980 and Alan Jones pointed out.

“I think it’s the first time in a long time in February only a few drivers have contracts for next year, maybe three or four but that’s it.

“So you are going to see a lot of drivers in the first few months of the year trying to make an impression, and from that you are going to see a lot of good competition.

“Maybe some mind games, I don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s going to be cool.”

Asked whether he’d pick up the phone if Ferrari rang he smiled: “Mate, to be honest, I’m obviously answering all calls.

“But you know I signed a two-year deal with Renault … but for me this is like year one in terms of making things happen with this team.

“I think last year we did bring some positives but now I feel there’s some stability and this is the year to really stamp some authority and get what we want.

“So my complete focus is with the yellow and with France at the moment.”

Abiteboul also laid out his aim for the coming campaign which kicks off in Melbourne on March 15

“Taking back fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship remains the objective over a season that will be more hotly-contested than ever.

He added: “2020 is also a pivotal year that marks the end of one cycle and the preparatory phase of another. This year must see us setting the best possible course for the major regulation changes of 2021.”