By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Renault will work as closely as ever with Daniel Ricciardo this season despite the Australian's decision to join Formula One rivals McLaren at the end of the year, team principal Cyril Abiteboul said on Friday.
The Frenchman added there would be no favouritism for Ricciardo's French team mate Esteban Ocon, who is staying for 2021.
Under normal circumstances, a departing driver would be sidelined from discussions about the next year's car but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the introduction of new technical rules to 2022.
That means next year's cars will not now be radically different.
"There won't be any preferential treatment between Esteban and Daniel on the back of his decision, because it's not the policy of the team," said Abiteboul.
"It's not also a necessity, let's be honest, I'm not fighting for any championship as we stand right now so it would make absolutely no sense, and Daniel will be fully involved in the development process of the car."
Renault were fifth last year, with McLaren using the same engines to finish fourth.
McLaren are switching to Mercedes power units for 2021, which means they will have to use their permitted 'tokens' on integrating the new engine rather than chassis development.
"That will give us the opportunity to work extremely normally with Daniel," said Abiteboul. "The only thing is obviously he won't be exposed to (the) 2022 (car). But frankly he would not be anyway."
Asked whether he felt a different atmosphere now he had decided to leave, Ricciardo said there might be some awkwardness but not for long.
"I've spent a couple of days in the sim (simulator) as well, so have seen a few people around the factory and no black eyes or punches in the stomach," he said.
"I think we're all moving on and we'll give it all for the rest of the year."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)