Nico Hulkenberg will be taking a grid penalty for the Austin Formula 1 race, with Renault introducing a revised engine featuring 2018 development parts.
The manufacturer has been careful to give one example of the new engine to both of its customer teams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, at the same time that the works outfit gets one, ensuring parity.
However, these will be the only engines of the new R.E.17G spec to be introduced this season, creating a potential disparity in performance between the drivers in each of the three outfits.
Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley have already taken new engine components, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen set to join them on Saturday.
All three will also take other fresh power unit elements of standard spec, and it’s not clear yet exactly how many grid penalties each will log.
“It’s all related to the internal combustion engine,” Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul told Motorsport.com. “And it’s parts that are in line with what is envisaged for 2018, and which we could bring forward to 2017.
"To be clear, it’s not all of what we’re planning for 2018, but it’s a step in that direction, it’s a healthy step in terms of performance and also reliability.
“However, the bigger reliability issues are in another part of the power unit. We still have obviously to be very careful with what we’re doing, particularly on the hybrid side, the ERS. On our side it also goes hand in hand with a new fuel, which is coming from BP.”
Abiteboul said it was important for Renault not only to gain knowledge about the updates, but also to prove that it can make progress within a season.
“If you go back in time there was discussion about whether or not there will be improvement in the season," he said. "There was first an improvement around Sochi, and that was quite visible. We’ve seen for a few races that Red Bull is quite capable of being on the podium on Sundays.
“Now we are bringing another step this season. If you compare that to all the criticism that we received at some point in the season, when it was publicly reported that there would be no evolution to the power unit.
"I think people don’t necessarily understand the complexity of engine development, and it was good to show that we can do it, just like we believe we can bridge the gap to the best in the course of next season. It’s good for building confidence internally and externally.
“Obviously with the grid penalty and only four races to go you can question whether it’s sensible overall, but we believe that it is sensible, and it will help the teams in their respective challenges.
"We also had the necessity to do it more or less at the same time, because we had a dialogue with the FIA, we respected the position of the FIA, which was to make the engine available at the same race for everyone.”
Abiteboul confirmed that the other cars in each team will stick with an older spec for the rest of the campaign.
“We only manufactured three, because it was also relative to the mileage situation of those three cars. There was a necessity anyway to introduce a new power unit for those three cars, so it was almost transparent to put this evolution in those cars.
"The other cars don’t need, in theory, to introduce any new parts, so it would have been an inclement penalty.”
Regarding the political issue of the disparity between teammates, he said: “It’s no different to what’s happening on a daily basis in F1, because you always have parts that are not available and so on.
"It’s not night and day. It’s a political thing that I’m pretty sure a team like Red Bull is capable of dealing with.”