Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Albert Park, 2020

Who should Renault hire to replace Ricciardo?

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Renault has a gap in its driver line-up for the 2021 F1 season. Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to jump ship to McLaren at the end of the year means the French manufacturer will need a new team mate for Esteban Ocon.

Who should they pick? There are a lot of drivers potentially on the market for next year, and while not all may be realistic options, many of them might end up behind the wheel of an RS31.

A mile-wide grin are day-glo helmet are not prerequisites. Tell us if you think Renault should hire one of these possibilities – or someone else.

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Lewis HamiltonOut of contract at Mercedes at the end of the year – but will be very expensive, and unlikely to be interested
Valtteri BottasHas already been tipped as a potential hire for Renault.
Sebastian VettelWill leave Ferrari at the end of the year, and Renault could be his best option.
Nico HulkenbergWould be a straightforward replacement, as he drove for the team last year.
Romain GrosjeanAnother former Renault driver…
Kevin Magnussen…and another.
Kimi RaikkonenIs he looking for another year in F1? He drove for the team when it was Lotus.
Robert KubicaRenult passed him over following his 2017 test, following which he spent a disappointing 2019 at Williams.
Sergey SirotkinLike Kubica, also previously tested for Renault and spent a season at Williams.
Fernando AlonsoHas won two world titles with Renault, this could be his last chance for another.
Stoffel VandoorneDominant GP2 champion arguably cast aside by F1 too soon after two years in poor McLarens, now in Formula E.
Brendon HartleyFormula Red Bull junior driver, dropped by Toro Rosso after a single season.
Marcus EricssonHad to make way for Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo, now with Ganassi’s IndyCar squad.
Nicholas LatifiAlready known to Renault following his stint as a test driver, making his F1 debut with Williams this year.

I say

Do Renault expect to be contending for race wins and potentially the championship in 2021? That may have been their original plan, before the new technical regulations were postponed to 2022, but as circumstances have changed so may their plans for the second car.

Therefore it’s not hard to see why they might now prefer a stopgap solution for 2021. And there are plenty of potential names which might meet that need.

That’s their concern, however. Speaking purely as a fan, I just want to see as many of the best drivers in cars as possible.

Which is why I’m hankering for an Alonso comeback. Yes, he’s pushing the higher end of the age range for F1 drivers. But his final season of F1, though hamstrung by a poor car, showed he’s lost none of his competitive edge.

Whether he’d be prepared to return with a team which has fallen short of its goal of taking on the ‘big three’ is another matter. But he’s my top choice.

You say

Should Renault pick one of the drivers we’ve suggested below – or someone else? Will reserve driver Guanyu Zhou gather enough superlicence points this year to become a contender for a seat? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Who should Renault hire to replace Daniel Ricciardo for the 2021 F1 season?

  • Someone else (7%)
  • Nicholas Latifi (0%)
  • Marcus Ericsson (1%)
  • Brendon Hartley (0%)
  • Stoffel Vandoorne (10%)
  • Fernando Alonso (28%)
  • Sergey Sirotkin (1%)
  • Robert Kubica (1%)
  • Kimi Raikkonen (2%)
  • Kevin Magnussen (2%)
  • Romain Grosjean (2%)
  • Nico Hulkenberg (19%)
  • Sebastian Vettel (8%)
  • Valtteri Bottas (17%)
  • Lewis Hamilton (1%)

Total Voters: 220

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “Who should Renault hire to replace Ricciardo?”

  1. I still think Perez to Renault and Vettel to Aston is an Option.

    But who knows maybe we end up with Bottas to Renault Russel to Merc and Alonso and Vettel buying Williams and calling the team the sore loser or something. ;)

    1. Why on earth would Perez do that? Has an control with racing point/aston martin till 2024 and the Mercedes copy will be way ahead of the Renault. And above that, I doubt Renault wants Ocon and Perez in 1 team, we know how that will turn out.

      1. Control = contract (autocorrection…)

      2. Not necessarily his decision if Stroll prefers getting his hands on a four time world champion. Contracts only last till a better offer comes around.

        1. @unitedkingdomracing the issue, though, is what is in the deal for both sides.

          From Stroll’s side, given that he is currently planning a series of upgrades to the infrastructure of Racing Point and the upcoming budget restrictions will potentially have the side effect of limiting the amount of capital investment that can be made in upgrading facilities, the money that he might have to offer to Vettel is money that will not be available to invest in those upgrades.

          If the infrastructure the team can pay for in the short term is going to have to last for an extended period of time, then arguably it pays more to invest money in the short term in the teams infrastructure than to splash that cash on a big name driver. I suspect it’s much more likely that they’ll stick with their current line up for the foreseeable future.

          With regards to what driver might be best for Renault, that all depends on two questions – what role does Renault want Ricciardo’s replacement to take and what benefit does any driver get for moving to Renault right now?

          On the first point, it’s not really all that clear what sort of driver Renault wants. Is their aim to now try to build around Ocon for the longer term, given he is a young driver who could potentially have a fairly extended career with them and has the potential for growth?

          In that case, they might want a more experienced driver who can provide direction on set up work and could act as a mentor to Ocon – however, there would be the option of gambling on two young drivers for a long term project, which is risky in terms of potentially lacking direction at times, but would allow them to focus on the longer term goals.

          However, Ocon has now had a hiatus in his career, particularly as it has been quite a few months longer than first expected since he has raced. There is an alternative school that would therefore suggest they might want a more experienced driver to act as a team leader whilst Ocon is given time to build his skills back up and then continue his development in the near future: in that case, the sort of skills that driver might be required to have might well be rather different to the first scenario.

          Equally, there is the question of whether it is necessarily attractive for a driver to go to Renault right now. If you are Alonso, which is the more popular option right now, what attraction does Renault offer now?

          Since Alonso last drove for the team in 2009, quite a few of the senior staff have changed – just as a snapshot, Bob Bell has stepped back into a part-time role, Symonds left several years ago, Nick Chester left at the end of 2019 in a way that suggested he was kicked out and Tim Densham retired back in 2011. Only Dirk de Beer would be recognisable, and even then de Beer only rejoined Renault in November 2019, having left the team in 2011 and been at multiple other teams in the meantime.

          It’s a markedly different team now under the management of Abiteboul, and there is a sense that the culture of the team has shifted too under his management – with some questioning whether that is potentially for the worse.

          Furthermore, as others have noted, having made some initial gains, it feels as if the team has plateaued in the short term and is stuttering for momentum. From Alonso’s perspective, what benefit is there in coming back at the age of 40, which is what he will be in 2021, to likely have to slug it out in the midfield pack – does he really have the motivation to do that when he is giving the impression that he is going into other racing series because he wants a new challenge to motivate him?

          I’m not sure I necessarily see the attraction for him if Alonso wants to try and get more wins and a chance of a third title – Renault isn’t giving the impression that they will be in that position to offer that any time soon.

    2. Perez has something good going for him, the problem is that some team principals use their drivers as scapegoats.
      I voted Ham as he’s the best driver on the grid.

    3. Would you be managing this “sore loser” team to give the name some relevence, while the 6x F1 world champion, 2x LeMan24 winner, WEC champion, Daytona24 winner, etc accolade drivers get on with driving the car?
      Asking for a friend …

  2. Of all those drivers listed i would definitely hire Alonso. He really is head and shoulders above all the others. He may be a bit hard to manage but some say he is not as bad as reported. Give him a decent car and he’ll give the results. Always fun to watch and one of the hardest racers there is.

  3. I want to see Guanyu Zhou behind the wheel but the more pragmatic me says Nico Hulkenberg.

    1. I would also like to see Guanyu Zhou. His debut season in F2 was impressive. I guess it depends on how well Ocon does; I think he’ll be successful.

      I don’t see the point in taking on a journey man who has been there before.

      1. Zhou is certainly an impressive prospect. The strongest factor deciding in his favour would be, in my opinion, whether Ocon can lead the team and provide experience Renault needs. If he shows he’s not rusty after a year on the sidelines and can be a solid and consistent number one, then there’s a seat for a less experienced driver (and a magnificent marketing opportunity for Renault, of course).

        In case Ocon is not that consistent and can’t be a lead driver, Hulkenberg is a logical choice. He knows the team, won’t have many issues with getting used to the new car, he’s not that demanding from the salary perspective. Definitely a problem with Alonso in this situation. If Renault takes him, offering him a salary of 20+ million, then there’s definitely something wrong in Abiteboul’s way of managing the team. In the face of global crisis, when you have to make significant cuts, such costs are unnecessary. Even Bottas would be more logical than Alonso.

        1. @pironitheprovocateur when Dieter put together his estimates of the salaries paid to the drivers in 2019, he put Hulkenberg on $10 million – which made him one of the more expensive drivers on the grid (5th highest paid). https://www.racefans.net/2019/03/12/2019-f1-driver-salaries-dont-believe-clickbait/

          Whilst you mention Zhou, he currently doesn’t have enough points to qualify for a superlicence – his current total would amount to just 14 points, far short of the 40 point threshold. He needs to finish in at least 4th place in the final standings for Formula 2 to earn enough points – he doesn’t have the option of applying for a free practice licence and earning points that way either, as he’s still short of that threshold (which is 25 superlicence points).

    2. The patriot in me really does not want to see a Chinese driver in F1 before an Indian one (Daruvala over Zhou), but Zhou did impress a lot, especially rising over the hype around Mick Schumacher, who for some reason I still don’t understand is considered a straight shoo-in for a Ferrari seat.

      1. India already had Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, China had none so far.

      2. @major-dev as Bart notes, there have already been two Indian drivers who have participated in F1 – Karthikeyan participated back in 2005, and then in 2011 and 2012, whilst Chandhok had his races in 2010 and a race in 2011, with multiple appearances in free practise sessions in 2011 as well.

        The closest that there have been to Chinese F1 drivers would be Ma Qinghua, who took part in four practise sessions in 2012 for HRT and one session in 2013 for Caterham, and Adderly Fong’s single practise session for Sauber in the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP.

    3. Agree with Zhou, so long as he gets enough licence points this year.

      1. Zhou, if for nothing else than it would increase Chinese interest both in F1 and Renault cars – which may help keep the team going.

    4. I wish they got Zhou, problem is then there will be close to no experience on those cars, but better try something new than the eternal promise to deliver that is Hulkenberg.

  4. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    21st June 2020, 9:24

    If Bottas has another solid year at Mercedes, I just don’t see him leaving unless he wants to, so I somehow don’t think it will be Bottas at renault.

    1. I think Bottas is the best option. Real team player and great benchmark for Ocon. It would be great harmony in Renault and Renault needs.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        21st June 2020, 9:43

        He may be the best option for Renault, but I also currently see him as a better more proven driver for Mercedes as Hamilton’s team mate. We know how well this works out and all we know so far is that Russel has looked far better than Kubica which means very little. And IMO the virtual stuff means absolutely noting for drivers real driving ability. There will be so little time this year for Russel to show much more IMO that I just don’t think Mercedes will risk changing anything, unless one of them decide to leave. Although Bottas may leave if he’s offered more cash at Renault than Mercedes.

  5. I don’t think they can get Alonso or Vettel, and certainly not Hamilton. So their best bet is either Bottas or Russell (the one that doesn’t get a Mercedes seat). Their second best bet is giving Vandoorne a second shot at F1, as there’s still a reasonable chance he may find his GP2-form in F1. All the other options are proven mediocrity at best.

    1. I agree with your second best bet. Being Alonso’s team mate, he never had a chance of proving what he was able to do in F1. How many F1 drivers have had their career curtailed by being Alonso’s team mate ? In my honest opinion, Vandoorme deserves a second chance.

  6. The level of loyalty of Alonso fans is in inverse proportion to the realism.

    The most likely signing is Bottas. He will have had one more chance at a championship at Mercedes and be ripe for a move in 2021. A quality driver, steady, fast, a team player and better in skill and value for money than all the other real possibilities.

    1. Renault would also give Bottas the longer term place he wants with a works team, and would inject experience into the Renault driver line up.

      Mercedes also need to do some succession planning for Hamilton’s eventual departure and his replacement will not be Bottas.

      1. Witan, the thing is, does Renault look like a particularly appealing long term prospect under its current management structure? It has struggled to make any significant progress up the field, and it is not as if Abiteboul has been winning much praise for his work.

        From Bottas’s point of view, would Renault be a more appealing prospect than Mercedes if the chance was there to renew his contract with Mercedes? It might be a move that Renault might want, but whether it is what Bottas would want is another matter – and, on that point, I’m not so sure he would be that willing to go there.

    2. Don’t need to be ‘loyal’ to Alonso to recognise his immense driving and racing talent.
      He’s the best driver on the list who’s realistically likely to take up the position, if not actually the best driver of the lot.

  7. I voted Bottas, because I want to see Vettel and Hamilton together at Mercedes

  8. I think their best choice might be Bottas. If they can get him. They could offer him a longer contract than he will get at Merc and more money probably.

    I think he is pretty fast, is a team player, has a calm temperament and would be a good benchmark for Ocon. It’s a win, win really.

    I guess in a similar vein they could ask Hulkenberg to come back. Similar reasons as Bottas except that Bottas is a more forward looking choice.

    I think both Alonso and Vettel would cost a lot to employ and might be too demanding for Renault at the moment. I think choosing one of them might be a frustrating experience for all concerned.

  9. Steve W (@westcoastboogaloo)
    21st June 2020, 10:56

    They need a stop-gap until they can get a proper lead driver. I’d say Stoffel as going for Hulk would be a bit “egg on their face” having let him go before. Bottas won’t leave Merc until he’s pushed and Vettel sounds like he’s got better things to do.

  10. Wasn’t this poll already done before, though? I seem to recall the same article headline appearing on this site.
    Nevertheless, I voted for ‘someone else’ as the list doesn’t include some current F1-drivers it perhaps should include. It features names such as Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Marcus Ericsson, and Robert Kubica, but neither of the current AlphaTauri-drivers, which I regard as more realistic alternatives than the above four. Yes, they’re Red Bull-tied, but Renault could try and lure either one to leave the RB-camp behind to join the team as they managed with Ricciardo.

  11. Nico.

    Or “Someone else”.
    Not because some certain 2-4time WDCs are bad, but because they will not be able to make Renault winning again, and it’s better Renault grows with someone new.

  12. I reckon it’ll be Bottas to Renault and Russel to Mercedes. It just seems like the best way forward for both teams. George is an exceptional talent and Bottas will be a good benchmark for Ocon and for the potential of the Renault package. Let’s be honest, it’s unlikely Bottas is gonna win the WDC while alongside the GOAT

  13. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    21st June 2020, 12:46

    Not Alonso. Anyone but Alonso. The guy’s the past and if the team wants to move forward and carve out a new identity and direction it needs someone else.

    But it’s not really ‘ready’ for a big name. In some ways you could argue it already has in Ocon, so whoever takes the other seat has got to be dependable, good in a poor to average car and reliable. They can either go for a relative unknown or I see no better option than Hulkenberg.

    1. Anyone but Alonso

      Yep, surely you would do better

  14. Electroball76
    21st June 2020, 12:48

    I think they’ll pick someone cheapish, rather than go with a superstar hire. They paid big bucks for Dan and it didn’t make much difference overall. The Haas model makes more sense for next season whilst everyone settles back in.

  15. Vandoorne deserves another chance in F1 . He had two seasons in a terrible McLaren up against Alonso . He’s racing well in Formula E and won the online series against all the Formula E drivers in identical cars. He’s got talent and deserves another shot.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      21st June 2020, 19:54

      But Alonso was also in the same terrible McLaren and he out qualified Vandoorne every single time in their last year as team mates. I think even drivers like Ericsson would out qualify the very best such as Hamilton at least once or twice over a full season if in the same car. I personally think in the past couple of years Alonso was in F1, even he wasn’t even at his best.

      Maybe he just couldn’t handle the car. But no matter how good people think Alonso was, Vandoorne was just terrible in comparison. I think Vandoorne is no better than palmer if I’m honest.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        21st June 2020, 19:55

        My last sentence is basing it on their career in F1 though.

  16. I think the bigger question is “who WANTS to drive for Renault?”. They’ve shown literally no progress over the past couple of seasons, and Cyril has been building quite the reputation for being not at all fun to work for/with.

    I still suspect them to pull out if they aren’t immediate front runners in 2022 (which I doubt they will be) – they’ll just put that F1 budget into FE like the rest of the car manufactures…

  17. I would suggest a more left-field option: Wehrlein. He has raced with Ocon before (at Manor in 2016), and from what I understand, he recently departed Mahindra FE. I think he would be a sensible option – cheap(ish) compared to Ricciardo and ex-F1 (and currently is a development driver for Ferrari).

  18. Neil (@neilosjames)
    21st June 2020, 15:25

    Given a choice between no Alonso and Alonso in yet another poor car, finishing 6th on a perfect day, I’d pick no Alonso. I have no desire to see great drivers in useless machinery, and I haven’t seen any sign that Renault might be making the effort and investment necessary to become a proper, front-running works team.

    Mercedes would be mad to get rid of Bottas in a period of such stability, with the car being carried over from 2020 to 2021. In that circumstance, it makes even more sense than usual to keep as much continuity as possible. And I don’t honestly see Renault being able to tempt him away from Mercedes of his own volition.

    And Vettel… I think he’s fallen out of love with F1. A couple of seasons plugging away with a midfield team to end his career on a poor note doesn’t sound like the sort of thing a driver of his standing would be interested in at the best of times.

    That cuts the options down to a handful of drivers suited to a midfield team. Ideally, I’d like to see Vandoorne given a shot in a team where he’d be an equal, rather than an afterthought. I still refuse to believe a driver can be that good in the lower formulae and no good in F1. But, I’d have to question whether he’d give up the apparent contractual security he has with Mercedes for a likely 1+options deal with Renault. The other obvious option is Hulkenberg, which would make perfect sense as he’s solid, reliable and the car has been built with a tall guy in mind, so there won’t be any of the (whether real or not) Hulkenberg height issues.

    But maybe a left-field option could appeal… Kvyat. He’s quick, still young and has become a lot more reliable and ‘at home’ in F1 than he used to be, and if Red Bull decide to bring up another junior he’d be available (and probably, which should appeal to Renault, cheap). A bit of change at Haas could shake up the options, or Red Bull could decide to drop their other Alpha Tauri guy, Gasly, and he might appeal to Renault even more… but my picks are Vandoorne, Hulkenberg or Kvyat.

  19. A joker = Felix Rosenqvist

  20. Jose Lopes da Silva
    21st June 2020, 15:59

    Christian Lundgaard.

  21. Why not a lady driver? As far as I know no lady driver has enough F1 Super licence points to drive in F1, which is a valid reason, but somehow that seems a lame excuse. Maybe it’s time for the FIA to review the Super licence points system.

    1. That’d be really cool, and would certainly get Renault some sorely needed fan credibility. It’s not like they’ll be winning races any time soon but they can at least grab some headlines.

      1. …instead of points.

        1. Lets be real, points ain’t on the board for Renault any time soon.

    2. Why promote a female just on the basis of sex? This is both demeaning to the driver promoted and an insult to those who have made f1 on merit.

      And if you fasttrack a driver to f1, history would suggest strongly they wont perform. So in all likelihood the publicity would be for the wrong reasons.

      1. I agree that women should be promoted on merit, but if merit was applied equally then how come not even one lady driver drove an F1 car in the recent simulated Grands prix? If F1 teams had applied an male – female equality to their “guest” drivers in the simulated series then we’d have had quite a few women in the last race, but no! F1 would rather select a man who has barely any driving talent than a woman racing car driver with mountain of talent. The shocking part is the FIA and the F1 teams don’t see their bias is so blatant. That tells you F1 has a serious problem, because they can’t even get around to selecting women drivers on the basis of equal merit when it wouldn’t have hurt F1 to have tried.

        1. I take your point but sim racing is not f1 and currently no female driver qualifies for f1.

          Thus its not logical to infer a bias when no appropriate talent is available yet. I have no doubt once a lady or few have attained the points required of all to get a superlicence, teams will be competing to sign that driver or drivers. W league is pushing hard to make it happen.

  22. Alonso would be so unbearably toxic behind the wheel of a Renault. I voted Hulkenberg. An at-best mediocre driver for an at-best mediocre team.

  23. What is it that “we” think that Renault needs for drivers.?
    They need a young prospect with future potential. Someone to build around who has the fire.
    That would, or should be Ocon.
    For the other side of the garage, best to get some seasoned talent that can generate buzz now and wrestle a sub par car further up the grid than it deserves. Apologies to all the “No, anybody but him,” group. That would be Alonso.
    Compared to others that fit the bill, likely he will be cheaper (put him on a $$$ per point contract), has vast experience driving crappy cars, has the race wining touch and the fire in the belly to get the job done.
    Consider too that he will boost exposure (read as sales) in Western Europe and the world already knows him.
    Bottas, nice guy and yes he is quick, but on so many occasions, his race-craft lets him down and he settles for less than someone like Daniel R. or Fernando A. would have a achieved.
    Just my 2 cents.

  24. Bottas to Renault
    Russel to Mercedes
    Vettel to Aston Martin
    Perez to Haas
    Grosjean dropped
    Williams with a rookie/pay driver

  25. Jockey Ewing
    21st June 2020, 23:32

    How about signing Grosjean, KMag and Steiner as a complete package?
    Although Bottas would be the best available, and maybe he won’t mind it for some good money, as he turns 32 at the August of 2021, even a shorter contract is often the final for many F1 drivers of that age. I like him, and he’s not that much off Hamlton’s pace, so imo he’s a better and way more realistic chocie than many on this list.
    I missed Zhou from the list, but yes, he has quite few superlicense points yet.

  26. Peter Waters (@)
    22nd June 2020, 7:44

    How about someone from Formula e!

    Like Pascal Werlein who is out of contract. He is a very capable driver. Mind you coming from a souped-up bumper car to a formula 1 car might get a bit of getting used to. :)

  27. I think a lot of people want to see Alonso back driving whatever F1 will give him and it will be a tragedy losing Vettel from the grid, but I voted Grosjean as the best fit. He’s French, has a wealth of experience since he was last at the team, can be really quick at times (they need someone to push Ocon ruling out rookies), gives good feedback (despite it coming across as a bit whiny) and knows the team. The Hulk comes in a close second but they dropped him for Ocon, which isn’t a ringing endorsement.

  28. Wishful thinking, but Renault hires Bottas, Merc hires Alonso and gives one hell of a show for 2021, with Hamilton fighting for 7th Championship with Alonso going for a 3rd and Merc going out in a blaze of glory with another title!

    BMW comes back for 2022, buying Mercedes team…

  29. Wes (@flashofsilver)
    22nd June 2020, 15:46

    How about Kvyat? He has more experience now, has shown good pace, has been in a big team, and probably could be had for little money. A little freedom from Red Bull may help him relax and show all his potential. Yes, Red Bull overlooked him for Albon, but I feel like there was more going on there then just pure skill. Possible egg on their face for dropping Kvyat to start with and worries of too much aggression on track between teammates(Ver)? I think he is worth considering well before a Grosjean or Kmag move.

  30. If Renault hires Alonso, Alonso will crush Ocon, finishing the season in 13th place on the standings with Ocon on 18th. In the last years we saw a very toxic Alonso, burning down the team morale and even more down the morale of an inexperienced teammate. Alonso will try to control every decision on the team, try everything to make him look well in the picture (even if the team goes down).
    Mclaren was convinced that Alonso was the only thing right and that everything else is wrong. This was very clear on the relation with Honda.

    A good bet would be Russell or Bottas,
    Renault going for Russell would force Mercedes to make a decision on the future and Renault should take advantage of that

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