Kevin Magnussen believes that the Renault F1 team can make steady progress through its first season back as a works team, but does not expect to be a regular threat for points until halfway through the year.
The Dane, who received a late call-up to join rookie Jolyon Palmer in the line-up after the team split with Pastor Maldonado, produced a solid testing performance to sit in the middle of the timesheets after four days of running in Barcelona, but accepts that Renault's late decision to make a full-on return to the sport leaves it with a lot of work to do if it is to catch up with its rivals.
"We are comfortable with what we have - we are not happy with the performance, but it is a good place to start," Magnussen confirmed, "We know what we have now and have done some good testing .... so we feel prepared for Melbourne in the sense of knowing the car. We just have to improve it a lot. There is not much you can do between now and Melbourne, but after that..."
Magnussen finished second in the Australian Grand Prix on his F1 debut with McLaren, but was a victim of the Woking giant's descent into mediocrity and spent 2015 on the sidelines, wondering it he'd ever get another chance to line up in the top flight. Having signed on for a second shot with Renault, he accepts that it will take time for both parties to get up to speed.
Renault's RS16 is largely an evolution of last year's Lotus entry, and the regie
admits that the season will be spent trying to build its Enstone base and workforce back up to front-running F1 levels. It might also be hampered by having to run its own engine - as opposed to the Mercedes power enjoyed by its predecessor - but Magnussen remains optimistic of moving forward as the campaign wears on.
"I think, well I hope, because we don't know yet, that around mid-season we can start seeing results and steps, taking more points," he reasoned, "But it is very difficult, because a lot of things are changing at the moment in various ways. There is a lot of stuff happening and we don't know how big the effect will be."