Renault duo Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg do not expect the French car manufacturer to make any major leap forward in form until the middle part of the season, when a development push kicks in.
With potential midfield rivals McLaren and Force India expected to bring major updates for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Sainz and Hulkenberg are both cautious about just what their Enstone-based team can achieve from the first race.
However, they are convinced that once the team starts bringing improvements to the car, then it will make rapid progress up the order.
Sainz told Motorsport.com: “I’m [more] confident about the development more towards the middle of the season than for this race I think.
“We have our baseline from testing and I don’t think there’s many things coming – a few bits but not something that could change dramatically the performance of the car.
“Apart from that I’m convinced with more set-up work, with more emphasis on the small details we can still unlock a lot of potential out of this new car."
Renault introduced a new front wing in the final Barcelona test, which was signed off as race ready after delivering the performance step hoped for.
Hulkenberg said that 2018 would be another season of building for Renault, because it would still take some time for the benefits of recent investments to come through the system.
“Last year we’ve built the infrastructure a lot more, taken people on board so all that takes time until you see the pay off, until you get the benefits from that,” he said.
“I think during the course of this year we should start to get the benefits and the results from the investments we made last year."
Asked if he felt Renault was close to a breakthrough, he said: “I think we are not quite there yet, to be honest.
"From testing I just had a quick look at the top three teams, and when Red Bull came by me on a long run they still do have quite an advantage. I don’t think we are quite there yet."
Sainz sees no reason why Renault's push up the grid cannot eventually be as rapid as it was 12 months ago – when it overhauled his former team Toro Rosso in the standings at the final race.
“Last year I suffered from Renault’s development. I was in a Toro Rosso being the fourth or fifth fastest car out there and all of a sudden you could feel the Renault development kicking in and overtaking us.
“As soon as I jumped in the Renault I could feel the car was a step ahead. Because of that I have a lot of confidence that will happen this year.
“Now, with me and Nico guiding the team in a similar direction and pushing each other, things are going to fall better and it’s a manufacturer team.
"It has resources, and because of that I’m confident it’s going to evolve no matter where we start here in Melbourne. I think the team is going to develop.”
Additional reporting by Scott Mitchell and Edd Straw