Hulkenberg has raced for the works team since 2017 and played a key role in its rise up the grid, beating his teammates over the two full seasons completed so far and finishing seventh in the drivers’ championship last year.
He has now been joined at Renault by ex-Red Bull driver and multiple race winner Daniel Ricciardo, who has a deal for next season whereas Hulkenberg’s current arrangement expires after 2019. Last year, Renault was linked with a loan deal for Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon before signing Ricciardo.
Asked about Renault’s driver situation for 2020 and if the team would have another look at signing Ocon, who has been sidelined this year, Abiteboul said: “The answer to the first question is in the second part of the question.
“The situation is clear. We have a two-year contract with Daniel. Nico’s contract, the initial term is coming to an end at the end of this year.
“There is some mechanism of options as has been commented on press – which I’m not going to disclose the details [of] – that can kick in.
“It’s maybe that we continue our journey with Nico. Nico has delivered for the team, clearly, and if you look at where we were when Nico joined us and where we are today, it’s crazy the change to the team, to the buzz.
“Clearly the drivers are no stranger to that, it’s not just engineers.”
Hulkenberg has been responsible for 124 of the 207 points Renault has scored since he joined in 2017.
Those efforts have been key to Renault finishing sixth and fourth in the constructors’ championship in the seasons Hulkenberg has raced for the team, and Abiteboul said “we need to give credit to that”.
“But also we need to look at the options, like everyone is doing, like I’m sure Nico is doing,” Abiteboul said.
“Things are open for him and for us, but there is also an option in place so that we can possibly continue our journey together.
“We will see, we’ll see probably after the summer break will be the right time to sit down, discuss it on the basis of fact and desire also.”
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault F1 Team R.S. 19
Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images