Renault says Jolyon Palmer will keep his Renault seat for the long term if he is able to show well against Nico Hulkenberg next year.
Palmer recently got the nod for the second cockpit with the French car manufacturer for next season, although his one-year deal means he will face intense competition to keep the seat if previous targets Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz or Sergio Perez become available for 2018.
But Renault team principal Fred Vasseur says there will be absolutely no reason to replace Palmer if he can produce strong performances against the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg.
"It is clear that Nico is a good reference, because he has had a pole position," Vasseur told Motorsport.com.
"Jo has the opportunity to show his potential. He will have a very strong reference and if he is able to match with Nico, then we will continue like this."
When asked though that Renault could face a difficult driver choice in 12 months if a host of other big names become available – Vasseur said: "Jo will still have the advantage because he already in place to show his potential, speed and the commitment at the team.
"I think it is always better to be inside the team than outside. He will have the do the job."
Vasseur said that the decision to retain Palmer for 2017 was prompted by the fact that the Briton had shown good progress over the course of the campaign – a trait he displayed in junior categories.
When asked why Renault had chosen Palmer, Vasseur said: "You know that we postponed the decision a couple of times.
"There were three young rookie drivers and for us it made sense to postpone and get more information. Jo had a tough start but then got back onto the pace and, in the last three or four races he had very strong pace.
"If you look at what he did in the past in different series, he was always improving. When he won GP2, his championship finishing positions were 20th, 13th, sixth and first.
"So it is difficult to forecast what will happen next year, but you can imagine that if he has made a step he will have strong support from the team also."
Vasseur also said that keeping at least one of its current drivers was felt important for the team.
"It was also a part of the discussions at the team, because we only have eight tests days [before the season] and you can imagine that it might be wet in Barcelona at some point.
"To have a form of continuity with the current season, for the engineers, it will make sense. It won't be the biggest advantage of the season, but it is something we considered."