Kevin Magnussen says he's happy to be given the chance to race with Renault's latest F1 V6 in Monaco this weekend, but wonders whether the regie devoted more time to addressing its engine woes than improving its chassis for 2016.
Having scored Renault's only points of the season so far, the Dane is at least on the board after five races, but, while he hopes that the latest Renault engine can push both himself and, when he gets it, team-mate Jolyon Palmer closer to the top ten, Magnussen is well aware that the Enstone team lacks the more complete package being enjoyed by similarly-powered rivals.
“It's tough to watch [Red Bull] because it shows, in black-and-white, that our car is not fast enough, that our chassis and aero is not fast enough,” he explained, “We just need to kick ourselves in the arse and get on with it.
“Everyone is working extremely hard and we are making really good gains and improvements and are getting the right things done, so I have no worries there, but it's just frustrating to see the moment when you are in it, that you've got to be patient and look for the future, although I think our future is quite bright.”
Having come under fire throughout the 2015 season – most publically from Red Bull – Renault knew it needed to focus heavily on turning around an engine that lacked both reliability and power, and Magnussen is confident that that aim has been achieved. However, he also wonders whether the same level of attention could have been paid to the chassis, despite the obvious complication of Renault's protracted re-acquisition of the Lotus team.
“I think Renault, and Viry with the engine side, went in the wrong direction with the old power unit,” he surmised, “They realised this and fixed it, went in the other direction, and now we are seeing the gains from that. I'm not sure it's so much to do with investment, but it's also a change of philosophy and direction with the engine and design of the engine. [Our deficit] is hugely down to the car, the chassis and the aero. There is a lot to be improved, but we also need to look at next year, where the cars are going to be very different.”
Given the opportunity to run the latest engine this weekend, Magnussen admits that he is looking forward to unpacking what some reckon to be a two-tenths gain for Monaco and more for conventional circuits.
“I can't really quantify it,” he admitted, “It's better, but it depends on the track really. At some tracks, it will be half a second, and some tracks it's won't, but it's a good improvement. Renault has done a really good job with this, especially considering it's in the season - to make a big step in the middle of the season is quite impressive.
“You can't really feel the power - whether it's 900 or 920, 930, it's still a lot of power - that's something you see in the data and the lap-time, but one of the concerns with this new engine and introducing it at Monaco is the driveability and, actually, the driveability is better. That's something that's going to help a lot around here. That you can feel.
“Having a good step in just the engine is fantastic. It means everything else loosens up a little bit and we can focus on improving the car - but it shows everyone that we need to improve the car now.”