Renault team boss Eric Boullier says he is hopeful that the French outfit will be 'close to the top four teams' in the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.
The team has enjoyed a steady if unspectacular pre-season with the new R30, although the mixed weather conditions suffered in Spain have affected preparations somewhat for the year ahead.
Despite that, Boullier insisted the team was happy with how testing had gone and said that, with the team having focused on heavy fuel runs, he was hopeful of being close to the pacesetters.
“If we discount the bad weather, then overall our preparations have gone very well,” he said. “We had a couple of minor glitches, which is quite normal for winter testing, but generally the car has run well and shown good reliability. Overall, considering that six days out of 15 were affected by rain, I think we have managed to maximise our mileage with the car. You can still learn a lot in the wet, especially for reliability, but the problem is that you don't push the car to the limits like you do in the dry.
“It has been very tough to understand and unpick the details of winter testing and how we compare with the other teams because we don't know what approach they have taken. We took a decision to run with heavy fuel at every test because we believed this was the best way to understand and improve the car. In terms of outright performance, I hope we are close to the top four teams.”
Both Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov will be making their debuts for the team in the season-opener and former race winner Kubica said he was 'as ready as he could be' to take on his new challenge.
“I feel as ready as I can be considering that winter testing has been so limited,” he said. “I've spent a lot of time with the team and we already have a strong working relationship, which means we can make the most of the time at the track. There has been a lot for me to learn and there are still questions to answer, but we got some good information from the tests and I tried to extract the maximum from every lap.
“It's difficult to judge performance, but we're heading in the right direction. We also haven't run with all our new updates yet and there is another aero upgrade for Bahrain, which we hope will match the wind tunnel predictions and improve performance. Overall, it seems that all the top teams are quite close, but some have definitely hidden their full potential during testing and will also have more updates for Bahrain. So far, I think Ferrari and Mercedes look very strong.
“It will be a long season and our goal must be to develop faster than our competitors. There was a big gap to make up at the end of 2009, so we will have to take two steps forward if we want to catch the top teams. Performance is what we need – it's always the best medicine.”