Renault has stressed that its Academy representatives still have the potential to have Formula 1 futures in spite of the team re-signing Fernando Alonso for next season.
Alonso, 38, will line up alongside Esteban Ocon at Renault, settling the manufacturer’s 2021 partnership, with a view to the pair remaining when new regulations are applied in 2022.
Renault re-formed its Driver Academy when it returned to Formula 1 as a works team in 2016 but none of its proteges have yet stepped up to a race seat in the championship.
It currently has Formula 2 front-runners Guan Yu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard on its scheme while newcomer Oscar Piastri leads the Formula 3 standings after the opening round.
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul conceded that the delayed 2020 campaign, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, denied the marque the time to assess its youngsters in Formula 2.
“I can already expect our decision to re-join 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,” said Abiteboul.
“The plan of the Academy was to be able to have a driver joining Formula 1 in 2021 and who knows it is maybe the case.
“But let’s face it this year this crisis has had many severe impacts, and one of which is to delay the season, and therefore to delay or ability to judge the performance of the two eldest from our Academy, Guan Yu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard.
“Both of them have done an extremely good weekend [in Austria], Zhou could have won the race, Christian was P4, without having any winter testing.
“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 Formula 1 and indeed I’m sure Fernando, like Esteban, has lots to bring also to their own development.”
Alonso added that he is willing to assist those drivers on Renault’s scheme
“The young talented guys are the future and in my personal experience I think all the teams that invested in the young driver academy they have the reward afterwards,” he said.
“I’m aware of my mission not only in the car but also outside the car, what I have to help and bring to Renault.
“I will try to do my best on track and try to help the team to be a world champion team, if with me driving fantastic and if it is with a future and younger driver I will feel proud; that’s the mission and I will work as much as I can for the team.”