Renault was hoping to close the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull more than it has over the winter, according to chief technical officer Bob Bell.
In the opening three races of the season, the top three teams have enjoyed a significant advantage over the rest of the field, with Ferrari winning twice and Red Bull once while Mercedes also took a dominant pole position in Australia. Renault has been consistently toward the front of the midfield and is fifth in the constructors’ championship, but third-placed Red Bull already has more than double the amount of points as the French constructor.
“I would say we are disappointed we are not further up,” Bell said of Renault’s position in the pecking order. “We had hoped to take a bit more lap time out of the top three teams over the winter and we haven’t. If anything they might have moved further ahead, so we are a little bit disappointed about that.
“I think we are reasonably pleased with how we have positioned ourselves to McLaren – which we were very worried about when they came on board with the [same] engine – but clearly Toro Rosso and Haas have done a great job over the winter and are making life very difficult for us.
“It’s going to be nip and tuck with them all season and McLaren are going to develop – McLaren are very good at developing to recover any losses from the start. It’s going to be really close fought. We had hoped to be a little bit further ahead at the start but this isn’t an exact science and we know we can do a good development job in season.”
With the two other teams to finish ahead of Renault last season – Force India and Williams – struggling to match that performance this year, Bell added: “It’s a little bit of compensation.
“But it’s surprising how far back Williams have fallen and you could say the same about Force India. It might be something they have designed in the car that they spot and fix fairly quickly. If they do they might make a significant jump forward at some point, in which case it will become even harder.
“If the top three teams score points, that only leaves the final four placings for teams to get points and there are four teams around scrabbling for those. It is going to be really tight and difficult.”