Alan Permane is still struggling to accept that Daniel Ricciardo is on the way out.
So much so that the Renault sporting director keeps trying to cheekily convince the Aussie star to stay put.
“Pre-COVID, when he would come to the factory and the whole team would be gathered in the race shop, you could tell there’s just love from everyone for him,” Permane said on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
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“And I tell him every week it’s not too late to change his mind. Seriously, I do!”
“Of course, it’s tongue-in-cheek and I know he can’t change his mind, and he doesn’t even pretend to say he would even consider it out of respect to his new team and all that.”
Ricciardo made the switch from Red Bull, where he won seven races, to Renault and established himself as the top driver in his team.
Now the 31-year old is taking on a new challenge at McLaren, although Permane said he wonders whether Ricciardo would have stayed if this season was not so disrupted.
“But who knows, if this had been a normal season and people weren’t making their minds up about team changes before we had even really turned a wheel, who knows where we would be now?,” he said.
“But we are [where we are] so we just have to deal with that, and without that we wouldn’t have Fernando Alonso coming back. So one door closes, another one opens for the team, if you like.”
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Ricciardo’s departure is even tougher to accept given Permane rates him among the four best F1 racers, describing him as “on a different level” than the rest.
“I’m only speaking from what I see, [which is] the same as everyone else sees – okay, I’ve seen a little bit more of Daniel but there’s him, there’s Lewis, there’s Charles and there’s Max. I think those four are a different level,” Permane said.
“In and out of the car, you don’t meet many who are pretty much spot-on both ways. Daniel has done a great job in building a very strong team around him in terms of engineering, his mechanics and the people in the garage.
“No disrespect to Esteban but he’s just that half a tenth, one-tenth behind, and where we are that can be a lifetime.
“He’s striving hard to close that gap and learning from Daniel where he can, and he sees what he [Ricciardo] has done with his team, and he’s doing the same, and he’s doing a great job – and if he can emulate him and have that same success, then great.”