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Renault set to make Carlos Sainz decision but have 2019 ‘options’

11:58 am, 24th July 2018

And, amid reports that Renault have an option on Esteban Ocon, Abitbeoul admits he wants his driver line-up for next season confirmed before the summer break.

While Nico Hulkenberg is signed up on a multi-year deal, Sainz is only on loan at Renault for the 2018 season and, with Daniel Ricciardo set to sign a new Red Bull contract, has also been linked with McLaren.

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But Abiteboul told Sky F1: “We like Carlos. We enjoy this season with him and he’s performing very well.

“I think he has a very strong team-mate and he deserves to be very highly considered for staying with us for another season. But one thing is for sure, we must make a decision very shortly.”

He continued: “He’s currently held back with his contractual situation, so we have to see how this situation is evolving almost on a day-by-day basis because we cannot risk having a driver line-up that is not up to our standard for next year.”

Sitting fourth in the constructors’ championship, Renault are one of the key players in the 2019 driver market and have been linked with a number of drivers, particularly Frenchman Ocon, currently at Force India but a Mercedes junior.

“I think in Formula 1 you need Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, Plan E,” Abiteboul said.

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“That’s my duty to make sure that we have a number of options and that sort of thing we will be discussing intensively in the next couple of days, with maybe a resolution just before, or just after the summer break.”

The Renault chief compared the Enstone team’s current standing – they are in their third season back in F1 after purchasing Lotus – to Mercedes in 2013, when Lewis Hamilton chose to jump ship from McLaren.

“Everyone sees that we are on the way up,” he added. “And a number of drivers are asking themselves if we are the next cycle in Formula 1.

“We remember that Lewis, when he decided to join Mercedes, they were only P5 in the championship and we are currently P4. That says a lot about what some drivers can see for the future.”

Renault are fourth in the Constructors’ Championship with 80 points, though Hulkenberg has scored 52 of those and leads Sainz 7-4 for the season in qualifying.

Who will sign off for the summer break in style? Watch the Hungarian GP live only on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.