Cyril Abiteboul feels that Jolyon Palmer has to step up his game so that the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team does not have to rely on Nico Hülkenberg, who has so far delivered all of their World Championship points in 2017.
Hülkenberg has finished in the top ten in four of the first seven races, raking up eighteen points in the process, while Palmer has yet to break into the top ten, with his best results of eleventh coming in the past two races in Monaco and Canada.
Renault boss Abiteboul insists that Palmer is under pressure to perform, especially with the RS17 showing to be contender for points in the hands of his team-mate.
“No one is safe in F1,” said Abiteboul to Autosport. “F1 is not an environment where anyone can say loudly, ‘I’m safe.’
“To a certain degree there are two questions. There is Jo, and there is a second driver. Right now my focus is on Jo. Jo has to deliver.
“What would happen then, I don’t want to elaborate on that, and even further, who would be stepping in, because that’s absolutely not the point for today. The fact is that Jo has a car which is a points-scoring car, and he has to enter into the points. Full stop.
“Right now I feel that it’s a bit almost unfair to Nico, who has to do a lot. The team is clearly very dependent on him. When Nico is out of the game, including for reasons beyond his control like [in Monaco] when he had his gearbox failure, we struggle to finish in the points, despite a number of cars that were also not finishing the race.”
Abiteboul wants to see Palmer’s performance gap to Hülkenberg reduced, especially in qualifying, and with Renault aiming to be at least sixth in the championship standings before the summer break, the Briton will need to start scoring points himself along with his German team-mate.
“It’s a challenge,” insisted Abiteboul. “We see that there is a very substantial gap between Nico and Jo in qualifying, and in the race. We are discussing on a regular basis, obviously, with Jo to see how he can improve.”
“The first thing we had to do was deliver him a weekend that was a clean weekend, and we did that in Monaco. It was the first time in a while that we’d done that, and for me that weekend was almost a restart for the season for the relationship between Jo and the team, that is finally providing him the right platform in order for him to improve his game, and hopefully eventually to deliver.
“That process has to lead to a position where Jo will also make a contribution to the championship.”