Whincup secured his second podium of the Supercars’ first round since February but was left disappointed not to claim the chequered flag in his milestone race. Percat said the race was one he would never forget.
“It’s amazing and I can’t thank Brad (Jones) and the whole team enough; obviously he can’t be here but thanks for having the faith in me,” Percat said.
“It’s taken a few more years than I would’ve wanted but as soon as we’re in a good position we throw everything at it.”
Two-time defending champion Scott McLaughlin was sluggish early, dropping back to sixth but used his smarts to cross the line in third after an epic three-way battle with Cameron Waters (sixth) and Chaz Mostert (fourth) stole the show.
“It was wild … it was crazy there for a bit. A lot of panel rubbing, it was awesome,” McLaughlin said on Fox Sports after.
A new token system will be in place for 2021, limiting what teams can change on their cars in an attempt to curb the rapid progression of the richer stables.
The rule coincides with McLaren’s switch from Renault to Mercedes power — a major change that will likely see the British outfit use all of its tokens.
As such, Abiteboul has no reservations about keeping Ricciardo in the Renault inner sanctum, as McLaren won’t be able to cash-in on his inside knowledge.
Speaking to reporters ahead of next weekend’s season opener in Austria, he said: “There won’t be any preferential treatment between Esteban [Ocon] and Daniel on the back of his decision, because it’s not the policy of the team.
“It’s not also a necessity, let’s be honest, as I’m not fighting for any championship as we stand here right now.
“It would make absolutely no sense, and Daniel will be involved in the development process of the car.
“With the way that the structure is, that the cars are more or less frozen between this year and next year, and also McLaren will have to use all their tokens on the pure chassis, engine integration, so no performance development there, that will give us the opportunity to work extremely normally with Daniel.”
He added: “The only thing is he won’t be exposed to 2022.
“But frankly he would not be anyway, because it’s still a bit far away from a driver perspective, even though a substantial part of our workforce is already on to 2022.”
Vettel expects faster times
Ricciardo accepts there may be some “awkward” moments within the Renault garage when racing resumes, but largely doesn’t expect things to change in the final months of his contract.
“I think because time has passed since the news now, and I’ve spoken, if not seen already, some members of the team, I think it’s really back to business,” Ricciardo said.
“I think we’re all excited to get racing again. Hopefully we get a bundle of races, and hopefully we can get a chance to kind of finish this out strong.
“So from my side it’s certainly put behind me. It’s not in my train of thought at the moment and it won’t be until next year. So yeah, we’ll just get on with it.
“I’ve spent a couple of days in the sim as well, so have seen a few people around the factory and no black eyes or punches in the stomach. So I think we’re all moving on and we’ll give it our all for the rest of the year.”
Supercars Championship, Sydney SuperSprint, Race 8 (12.15pm EST) — Shane van Gisbergen will be out for retribution on Sunday after Scott McLaughlin edged him out by the barest of margins in Supercars’ return race.
McLaughlin won a thrilling Race 7 at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday which kickstarted the Supercars season after a more than 100-day hiatus due to coronavirus.
Van Gisbergen came home strong but was left to rue aerowash as he failed to complete an overtake in the closing laps, and came second to McLaughlin by just 0.180 seconds.
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