Renault’s new technical head Marcin Budkowski says it would be “ludicrous” to suggest his team can join the fight at the front of the field in Formula One next year.
Renault returned to F1 as a factory outfit in 2016 and has slowly been rebuilding its team to bring its headcount up to similar levels as its manufacturer rivals Ferrari and Mercedes. The team has made steady progress in the constructors’ standings and currently sits fourth overall ahead of midfield rivals Haas and McLaren. It has also signed race-winner Daniel Ricciardo as one of its two drivers from 2019 until the end of 2020.
However, there has still been a huge gulf in performance to third-place Red Bull this year and an even bigger gap to title contenders Ferrari and Mercedes. Given the level of those top teams this year, Budkowski can’t imagine a situation where Renault is able to fight for titles until the next major rule change in 2021.
“I hope it will be different [next year] but I think we have to take things step by step and we are a second and a half off the top guys,” he said. “I’m not sat here thinking we are going to recover that from Mercedes and Ferrari, who are massive organisations and super competent people who have grown over the last two years. They are structures that have had over 900 people for many years now and that stability will benefit them.
“It would be ludicrous for me to say that we are going to beat them next year. Our objective is to continue progressing strongly and, to be honest, to reduce that gap is a good achievement. I certainly hope we can fight much closer to them in 2020.
“I’m not going to make any predictions because it would be unreasonable, but 2021 will be a major change in regulations if that is confirmed and we have to see it as an opportunity. Every change of regulations is a risk and an opportunity and from our point of view if it’s a proper reset of the regulations then obviously it is favourable to us to start from a fresh start.
“But by then we will have an organisation that is more mature and structured. There is no reason our ambitions shouldn’t be high for 2021 and whatever we do before that we need to show progress and if we do well that’s fantastic, but I am not going to make predictions.”
Budkowski joined Renault from the FIA earlier this year and said the team he is working with in Enstone is still some way off its full potential.
“It’ is a really, really good group of people at the basis of it and it’s a very apolitical group of people. So it’s a great environment to work in, a very pleasant environment and one where people spend their time thinking about how to put performance on the car rather than how to stab other people in the back. That’s fantastic and way better than some places where I have worked before.
“On how it works, I think there are a lot of things that we could do better and if that wasn’t the case then we would be winning races. Part of it is improving how we do things, and part of it is accepting that our headcount will be 700 by the end of the year but that is still quite a bit smaller than the bigger guys up there.
“But it is also not the case that if we are 700 in December then the performance of 700 people is going to be on the car in January — it will take some time. When you take people from other teams, it takes them time to blend in and bring their ways of doing things and ideas. When you take you people it takes some time to train them, and we took a lot of graduates, a lot of very talented people from universities, apprentices and takes them three to six months to get to grips with their positions.
“So we are seeing now the benefits of the recruitment we did in 2016 and 2017 and we will see next year the benefits of the recruitment we did at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. There is a lag and it’s going to take some time to get it right. At the same time, when we have positions growing and doing more things, you have to change the processes and the way you do things.”