Ricciardo announced ahead of the 2020 season that his second year at Renault would be his last, signing a three-year contract with Mclaren which started this year.
At the time of his departure, Renault had not scored a single podium since returning to the sport in 2016, although Ricciardo subsequently managed two third places in 2020.
Renault finished fifth in the constructors’ championship in both years, Ricciardo was in the squad, and Western Australia said that was the main reason for his departure.
Speaking on the third season of the Netflix series Drive to survive, the 31-year-old revealed the question he was asking himself, the answer blocking his fate.
“Can I win with all the cars finishing? It still hurts to say that (but) the reality is no,” he said.
“Deep down inside I knew I had to go.”
Ricciardo’s decision to sign for McLaren even before the start of the 2020 season created friction with the team leader Cyril Abiteboul, with the pair practically ignoring each other in one scene.
“Each of us at Renault is focused on team stability. A pure focus on performance this season,” Abiteboul said at the start of the episode.
“We have to be in position for the podiums, then fight for the wins and then fight for the championships – but Daniel put an end to it.”
The tension in the Renault squad was evident for former Ricciardo boss Christian Horner.
“Is Cyril still talking to you?” Horner asks Ricciardo at one point.
“Yeah,” Ricciardo replies, clearly uncomfortable.
Horner could sympathize with Abiteboul, having seen Ricciardo announce his departure from Red Bull in the middle of the 2018 season.
“It’s probably a bit like being dumped by a girlfriend, but she hasn’t left the house yet,” Horner said.
“It must be a strange dynamic for Cyril, knowing all season long that he’s going to see their biggest competitor. It’s tough.”
“You naturally closed in on this person because they left you. Cyril undoubtedly took this very personally.”
Abiteboul admitted that Ricciardo’s departure had been painful, believing that the duo were committed for the long term.
“What hurts the most is that this is not the long term project that I thought we got us into.”
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