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Wolff had to "play hard, forgive quickly" over aborted Ocon F1 deal

Adam Cooper
Wolff had to

Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff says he never lost trust in Renault counterpart Cyril Abiteboul despite their disagreement over the aborted Esteban Ocon deal last year.

An agreement for Mercedes protege Ocon to join Renault had been made but not signed when Renault changed its mind at the last minute after Daniel Ricciardo indicated he wanted to join it for 2019.

Wolff subsequently made his frustration with Renault clear, with the situation exacerbated by Ocon ending up without a race drive this year as Force India's transformation into Racing Point meant he lost his seat there to Lance Stroll.

But discussions between Wolff and Abiteboul resumed this year and Renault dropped Nico Hulkenberg to sign up Ocon for at least the 2020 and '21 seasons.

Wolff said he was able to put last summer's events behind him and look at the bigger picture when dealing with Abiteboul.

"We never lost the trust," he said when asked about events of 2018 by Autosport.

"There are so many common things that we discuss between Renault and Mercedes, where we discuss how the sport should go, and that as much as the situation on Esteban affected us and we let some words slip, this is part of the game.

"There were phases where we were upset with each other, but then you need to move on.

"It hasn't changed anything on the respect I have for Cyril, and the respect I have for Renault as a brand.

"That's why we moved on. We need to play hard and forgive quickly."

Wolff had to

Abiteboul admitted that Renault had put Wolff in a difficult situation by not taking Ocon a year ago.

"I was not feeling extremely comfortable at the way things developed last year," he said.

"Certainly it was absolutely not a good thing, but it was clearly not our intention to leave this guy [Ocon] behind, and to trigger the chain reaction that our decision to seize the opportunity of Daniel would cause.

"I don't think we can provide all the details, but I think it's been a whole dynamic probably not well handled last year by our two companies.

"And I think that's why I think we've done better this year - we've been a bit clearer with each other about parameters and timing, and we simply stick to timing and deadlines.

"It's been an extremely fluid discussion, it's been extremely transparent, with one simple objective."

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