Renault F1 director of engineering Pat Symonds has confirmed that the team is doing all it can to bring a revised version of its original 'double decker' diffuser to the first European grand prix of the season.

Speaking in the build-up to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix - the home race for star driver Fernando Alonso - Symonds revealed that the hitherto disappointing R29 would receive an aerodynamic makeover with or without the latest diffuser, but admitted that he was hoping to see the key revision ready to go in Barcelona after watching Alonso and team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr struggle for points in the four 'flyaway' rounds that opened the year.

"I'm disappointed with our start to the season," he confessed, "We're all well aware of the difficulties of trying to assess competitiveness through winter testing but, when we arrived in Melbourne, we did feel we were higher up the pecking order than the performance we actually delivered.

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"However, what has impressed me is how the whole team has responded to the need to become more competitive, particularly following the clarification of the diffuser regulations as we managed to get the new-style diffuser onto one of the cars in China, which is a credit to the whole team. So it has been a disappointing start, but we've definitely moved up the order in the last four races and there's a lot more to come.

"The whole team is still pushing hard with development, and the diffuser and floor that we brought to China was very much a first attempt. Over the course of the year, we will see several more versions, the first of which we hope to have in Barcelona.

"In addition, we've got new wheel fairings this weekend - with quite a major design change to give us an increase in downforce - and a new rear wing. On top of that, we've got a few small aerodynamic tweaks that we will introduce on a race-by-race basis but, overall, we can expect a reasonable step in performance for Barcelona. We weren't particularly satisfied with our performance there during winter testing and I think that was probably because our aero performance was significantly below that of the cars with twin diffusers. Now that we have hopefully improved our performance with our own new style diffuser, we certainly hope that Barcelona will be a bit more favourable for us."

Despite the difficulties Alonso and Piquet have had in pushing the R29 into the top eight - and the rumours surrounding the Brazilian's future with the team - Symonds argues that both have managed to get everything possible from the car.

"I think they are, especially now that we've introduced the twin diffuser, because the car was quite sensitive and difficult to set-up with the more conventional diffuser," he said, reflecting on Piquet's better showing in Bahrain, "The car used to have a very small sweet spot in terms of set-up, which made it difficult for Fernando and Nelson to get the most from the car.

"I do believe that this has improved since we've fitted the new diffuser, but it's still difficult to judge because we have been so limited with the amount of running we've done, especially in dry conditions. So we still have a lot to learn about the R29, but I do feel it's becoming easier for us to get the most from the car."

The effect of that tight sweet spot has been magnified by the closely-packed grid produced by the new-for-2009 regulations - something that caught Symonds, and others, a little off-guard.

"I've been very surprised by just how close the racing has been in the first four races," the F1 veteran admitted, "Normally, you expect stability of rules to lead to close racing and change of rules to move things apart, but that hasn't been the case this year - although the new rules have certainly shaken up the order of the grid.

"I don't have an explanation as to why things are so close, but I can speculate that one of the reasons is that the aerodynamic performance of the cars is probably a bit closer this year. With much simpler aero regulations, the advantage that some teams were getting from winglets, deflectors and vortex generators may have been lost. The aero domain has therefore been neutralised to an extent and the relative aero performance of the cars is perhaps a bit closer.

"The second reason might be to do with tyres as I wonder whether the formula is becoming tyre-dominated. The fact that we are all using a Bridgestone control tyre that is relatively conservative is probably another factor that has led to the closing up of the field."