Renault has said it will have to be 'humble' this season with its engine programme aimed more at 2017.
Renault will return as a full works entrant this year, having re-purchased the Lotus F1 Team, but will also continue to supply Red Bull, despite the fact relations soured considerably in 2015. Renault has struggled the last two seasons under the V6 turbo regulations and engine technical director, Remi Taffin has conceded 2016 is not the prime focus.
“There is a stepped programme but the programme is made for 2017,” he confirmed. “Obviously, we're racing every other weekend in '16, so if we can put some more performance, we will. But it will still be driven by the fact that 'is it a good thing for '17?' – 'Yes' – 'So we do it', because for '16, we have to be humble. We want to finish races. We want to be quicker and quicker. We'll see how we develop that strategy. But it will be based on how we get to next year.”
Quizzed on how different the 2016-spec Renault engine will be to that used in 2015, Taffin added that the main work over the winter has focused on the internal combustion engine and the turbo.
“Basically, we've kept on developing the specification we had for the end of last year. It's just ongoing development. It's going to be different. It's mainly ICE and turbo. The ERS systems [Energy Recovery Systems] are under control and where we wanted it to be at the moment. It's not the big part of what we have to work on.”
Pressed on how much of a performance step Renault will make, Taffin noted that he expects the new unit to be the 'first half of the step' to closing up to Mercedes.
“We're looking at the first half of the step we're having to [take to close the gap] to Mercedes. I say the first half because we never know how much the competitors will improve over the winter. If we were one second down last year, maybe we will get back three or four tenths. That's the sort of things we're looking into. But again, we'll see what we've got at testing and races.”