Renault 'serious' about promoting Academy drivers despite Alonso signing

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Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul insists he is "serious" about promoting Academy drivers to Formula 1 despite signing Fernando Alonso for 2021.

The Spaniard will return to the team where he won both his world titles next season, filling the seat of McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo, but for some, that decision was seen more about nostalgia than anything else.

However, both Renault and Alonso have made it clear they see the renewed partnership as crucial to helping the team be competitive again in 2022 and that, Abiteboul says, can't be overstated,

"It's a very important question," he said of Alonso's role within the team.

"Because I can already expect that our decision to rejoin with Fernando could be seen as a lack of interest or loyalty towards our own project of the Renault Sport Academy and it's not - I want to be extremely clear that it is not.

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"The plan indeed when we formed the academy was to be able to have a driver joining F1 in 2021 and who knows? It may be the case," he suggested, though Esteban Ocon is also signed until the end of next year.

"But let's face it, it's true that this year this crisis has had many severe impacts, one of which is to delay the season start, and therefore delay our ability to judge the performance of the two eldest from our academy, [F2 drivers] Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard."

It should also be noted that there was no guarantee either Zhou or Lundgaard will have the required amount of superlicence points to be eligible for F1 next year, despite strong starts in Spielberg.

"Both of them have had an extremely good weekend. Zhou could have won the race, and Christian was P4 in his first race without any winter tests," Abiteboul added.

"So we are very, very serious about the academy, very serious about those two people in particular and the plan will remain to see how they can join F1.

"I'm sure that Fernando like Esteban has lots to bring to their own development."