Cyril Abiteboul says Renault is open to retaining Jolyon Palmer for the 2018 Formula One season, providing he can turn around his disappointing form in the remainder of the year.
The Briton has endured a substandard campaign during the first half of 2017 and has been comprehensively out-performed by Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Palmer has failed to score a point so far this year, nor has he been able to out-qualify Hulkenberg, who has recorded all of the French manufacturer's 26 points this campaign.
Palmer's poor form has ramped up speculation regarding his F1 future, with his current contract with Renault set to expire at the end of the season. Rumours that Palmer could be replaced have intensified ever since Renault began assessing whether Robert Kubica could complete a sensational return to the sport on a full-time basis -- which included a test run in Renault's 2017 challenger, the RS17, during last week's post-Hungarian Grand Prix test.
"Frankly, if he manages to turn around the situation, which he did last year, we are completely open to a future between the team and Jo for one more season," Abiteboul told Autosport. "Stability would be good for the team.
"That's also what we wanted last year -- to have Nico changing we wanted not to have to change two drivers. Things could go his [Palmer's] way, but at the end of the day that's in his hands. He knows that right now he's on a one-year contract and completely understands the team has to assess its options for the future."
Renault boss Abiteboul moved to reassure Palmer that his immediate place at the team was safe, as speculation that he could lose his drive as soon as the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month continued in Hungary. Abiteboul insists Palmer has shown glimpses of his capabilities, but needs a confidence boost to rediscover the sort of form he was able to produce towards the end of last year.
"We've seen very good things with Jo, both during the winter tests, during the season, during a session," he explained. "He's capable of extracting really good pace from the car, doing a very good job, providing accurate feedback, being very committed into the team. At the same time there's been a mix of mistakes, missed opportunities -- clearly not assisted by circumstance with reliability that has been clearly weaker on his side of the garage.
"Very rapidly what this sort of mix has created is, I believe, a lack of confidence -- a lack of confidence in himself, a lack of ability to put his head down in the difficulties that will encounter any driver in a race weekend or in a season. And that lack of confidence has started to kick off in a sort of snowball and has led to the situation we have now.
"I'm really trying to protect Jo and to confirm to Jo almost on a daily basis my and the team's commitment and full support -- in order to recreate the confidence in himself and in the team. It's not the job of one day."