Renault Sport F1 Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul is eager to install a similar structure used by Mercedes to give opportunities to its junior drivers with customer engine supply deals.

Speaking at the 2018 launch of the Renault Sport Academy, Abiteboul underlined the importance of giving its junior driver more opportunities in F1 despite both its full-time drivers coming from outside its fold having signed Nico Hulkenberg from Force India last year and loaning Carlos Sainz Jr from Red Bull for the upcoming campaign.

Renault unveiled its seven junior drivers with senior figure Jack Aitken, 2017 GP3 Series runner-up who is moving up to Formula 2 this season, tipped for further F1 test chances. But with no direct ‘B-team’, as used by Red Bull and Ferrari with Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo Sauber respectively, Abiteboul is keen to investigate the junior path Mercedes has installed.

“In my opinion, an important element will be how we leverage our engine supplier activity,” Abiteboul said. “If you look at what Mercedes are doing it is a view that there is a connection between engine strategy and driver development strategy.

“In our case, it has helped us because we had access to Carlos Sainz Jr off the back of a larger agreement with Red Bull Racing which was continued with what we have done with McLaren.

“There is already a connection but in the future I want this connection being in the favour of the guys coming from the Renault academy.”

The trio of Mercedes juniors – Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Ocon and George Russell – have all had F1 experience with Wehrlein spending the past two seasons racing for Manor and Sauber, Ocon joining Manor midway through 2016 before moving to Force India last year and Russell enjoying two free practice sessions for Force India plus tests for Mercedes last year.

Renault is yet to decide its test drivers to support Hulkenberg and Sainz for 2018 with Aitken currently a prime candidate to fill the role with Sergey Sirotkin’s expected move to Williams for his F1 rookie season.


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