While Renault has taken a clear step forward since it returned to the sport as a constructor in 2016, looking likely to claim fourth – ‘best of the rest’ – in this year’s standings, technical boss Marcin Budkowski has dismissed talk that the French outfit is on the verge of another step forward which will see it challenging the ‘big three’.
Instead, the Pole believes that it will be 2021, when the sport introduces its new rules package, when the French team can seriously consider challenging for podiums, wins and more.
“Obviously I hope it will be different,” he says, “but we have to take things step by step. We are 1.5 seconds off the top guys, and if I was sat here thinking we are going to recover that against people like Mercedes and Ferrari, these massive organisations, with super competent people, I would be wrong.
“We have grown over the last two years,” he continued, “but they have had structures with 900 people for many years. Stability has been a benefit to them, so it would be ludicrous for me to say we are going to beat them next year.
“Our objective is to continue progressing strongly, and to be honest, reducing that gap is a real achievement. I certainly hope we can fight much closer to them in 2020. But I am not going to make any predictions because it would be unreasonable.
“2021 is a potential change of regulations, if that is confirmed, and we have to see that as an opportunity. Every potential change is an opportunity and a risk, from our point of view.”
Controversially recruited from the FIA, Budkowski believes that while Renault will not be challenging the big three any time soon, the addition of the highly popular Daniel Ricciardo will reap dividends in a team that relies heavily on team spirit.
“There is a really good group of people at the basis of it, and it is a very apolitical environment, so it is a great environment to work in, a very pleasant environment. It is one where people spend their time thinking about how to put performance on the car, rather than how to stab everybody in the back. So I think that is fantastic, and it is way better than some places where I worked before.”
“We really need to establish ourselves, get out of the midfield,” he admits, “and be a team that is starting to get closer to the top guys. It is difficult to give relative targets because it depends on everyone else’s progression. I think we need to show that we are emerging from the midfield.”
Asked whether Renault needs to concentrate on its chassis or engine, Budkowski admitted: “I think both. On the engine and chassis side, on the way we operate the car, everywhere the gap is significant and we need to make a step on both sides.”