Renault special advisor Alain Prost is keen to see the French manufacturer take advantage of an open Formula 1 driver market in 2018 as it continues to build towards the top.

The four-time F1 world champion is thrilled to see Carlos Sainz Jr switch to Renault for 2018 on a one-year loan from Red Bull to partner Nico Hulkenberg, as the German driver’s vital sixth place in the season finale at Abu Dhabi saw the team leapfrog Toro Rosso for sixth place in the World Constructors’ championship.

Renault is focusing on another season of development, with new building constructions ongoing at its Enstone factory, to boost its long-term goal of returning to the title-contender status in F1. Prost agrees its driver selection can play a pinnacle role on Renault’s progress and while he admits taking Sainz on a one-year loan might be a risk he’s confident the team will be in a strong position for the 2018 driver market.

“In Formula 1 there are things you can do and things you can’t do,” Prost told Sky Sports F1. “We wanted to have Carlos but we knew it was a risk to lose him at the end of 2018. But on the other side we are not ready to be world champions so we have to accept a few risks sometimes.

“At the end of 2018 the market is quite open. We will see what is going to happen but right now we do not have all the cards in our hands. That is true.”

Currently, only Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen have contracts which run beyond the end of the 2018 season at Ferrari and Red Bull respectively. Lewis Hamilton is believed to be on the cusp of agreeing a new Mercedes deal to keep him at the reigning F1 world champions beyond next season.

Prost also played down Renault using its engine supply deal with Red Bull as a bargaining chip for retain Sainz beyond the 2018 season. The idea was speculated as part of the arrangement to release the Spanish driver from Toro Rosso before the end of this season as part of its late-season F1 World Constructors’ charge.

“Everything is possible because you have politics but that is not the case at the moment. We are not thinking this way,” Prost said.

Renault were briefly in the running to secure Fernando Alonso for 2018 after the two-time F1 world champion assessed his options having been frustrated by the uncompetitive McLaren-Honda package. Alonso has re-signed for McLaren after it secured a deal for Renault engines from next season.



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