Renault is confident that it has closed the gap on Mercedes and Ferrari this season, after delivering a half-second per lap improvement with its 2016 Formula 1 engine.
As it begins a restructuring and ramping up of efforts with its own works team, the French car manufacturer has enjoyed a much better time during testing than the previous two campaigns.
And Renault engine technical director Remi Taffin thinks that a plan to realise a half-second leap over the winter has been achieved.
When asked by Motorsport.com if the gap to Mercedes had been halved as hoped, Taffin said: “To be fair it is very difficult to compare Mercedes. I guess they are hiding their gains, and they will probably raise it when we get to Q3.
“But, we know where we have to go, we know what the goal is, and now we have got to the point where we know we can get there.
“The concepts are on the table, we have some proven facts from the dynos and we proved that bringing more than half a second over the winter is feasible. We did it. And we just have to get more steps in.”
One second is the target
Renault F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul believes that the half-second gain is more than other manufacturers have made – and hopes to deliver a similar step again later this year.
“We’ve no obvious indication so far as to what the others have made. I’ve heard things on the grapevine, but nothing for sure,” he said.
“[Half a second] is more than what we understand Ferrari and Mercedes have been doing. I’ve absolutely no clue as to what Honda have been doing. They are still a bit of a mystery for us.”
When asked if he hoped for another half-second leap in 2016, he said: “That’s the plan, that’s the target.
“We are aiming to gain one second over the season engine-wise, and we are also aiming to make some gains, which are not quantified as of now because still we are chasing a baseline on the chassis side. But there is also an expectation of a gain on the chassis.”
Taffin said that, although it has gotten closer to Mercedes and Ferrari, Renault is not pretending it is on a par with them yet.
“I guess we should be closer to them – but the gap will still be there,” he said. “It is fair to say that, depending on how we assess this season and the steps we can fit in, I think the aim is still, starting 2017, to be fighting with them if we are to produce overall a good car.
“To be fair, if we are still working with Red Bull, maybe they can be a contender, I don't think they are going to be losing their skill for building winning race cars.”