Leading Formula One commentator Martin Brundle says Daniel Ricciardo is in for a tough time at Renault in 2020, following the Australian’s announcement he will drive for arch-rivals McLaren in 2021.
With the 2020 season delayed by more than three months, F1 is in the unusual position of having moves for next season announced before this year’s championship even gets underway.
As well as Ricciardo’s move from Renault to McLaren, we already know Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari, to be replaced by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Brundle says the timing of the moves will make for fascinating viewing throughout the season.
“Intra-team politics are going to be a big story as it’s certainly unusual for teams to know before a season starts that one of their drivers is leaving,” he told Sky Sports.
“You normally get those kind of shock, breaking news lines between July and September when you’re two-thirds of the way through the season, not before it has even begun.”
According to Brundle, who started 158 races between 1984-1996, teams will begin keeping information from departing drivers, with Ricciardo’s situation particularly complicated.
“Daniel Ricciado, Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz have got to walk into their garages and start a season when it’s already absolutely known that they are leaving,” he said.
“With all the sensitive data and systems you are quickly persona non grata in these situations.
“Especially for Daniel. He is going to a team with generally a very similar performance level. They’re just going to be increasingly keeping some things away from him.
“They’ll also be bruised that he thinks McLaren is a better opportunity than Renault.”
The situation at Ferrari is also certain to cause tensions during the season, given the Vettel-Charles Leclerc relationship was frosty at best in the latter half of the 2019 championship.
Vettel, who doesn’t yet have a drive for 2021, defied team orders to help Leclerc in 2019, and Brudle believes more fireworks are likely this year.
“Which bit of Ferrari team orders is Seb Vettel going to be interested in? He never was that interested before at Red Bull or Ferrari, so he certainly isn’t going to be now, and he has a big point to prove.”
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has flagged Vettel as a potential replacement for Ricciardo in 2021, along with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
“Valtteri is a driver who has given Hamilton some trouble and he still has much to give and wants to prove it,” Abiteboul said.
“I won’t discuss the specific finances involved, although our priority is to invest in the infrastructure of the team.
“Vettel is a free agent, and if he is strongly motivated to continue running then he can also be in our interests.”
Whether four-time champion Vettel is interested in a move to the midfield remains to be seen. Last month the legendary Jackie Stewart told Wide World of Sports that Vettel should retire from the sport at the end of 2020.