Renault Sport F1 team principal Frederic Vasseur has sounded caution for the manufacturer's aspirations heading into the 2017 F1 season, even if he feels the shift in technical regulations represents an opportunity for a big step forward next year.
A year on from the formal confirmation that Renault would return to F1 as a full constructor after completing the purchase of Lotus, the French firm is reflecting on a tough comeback campaign that yielded a best finish of just seventh en route to ninth in the constructors' standings.
Despite the lacklustre season, which Renault attributes to the 'unbelievably short timeframe' it had to develop its car following the late takeover, Vasseur feels the team has set the foundation for a push in 2017 under the revised technical framework and a driver line-up of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.
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“2017 is a fantastic opportunity for us to take a significant step forward for many reasons,” he said. “The change of regulations could mean quite a shake-up in the order of relative competitiveness, plus the fruits of our expansion will be ramping up. We made an early start to developing next year's car with this in mind
“Our driver line-up for 2017 shows our intent and aspirations. Nico comes to the team at a perfect time for both us and him,” says Vasseur. “He has experience of working with different teams, including those we expect to be our rivals next season. As well as a significant amount of experience, he has youth and hunger on his side. He has been a driver hungry for the right opportunity to help build a team and we are that team. It's a perfect match
“Jolyon has shown great development over the course of his rookie season with us, combined with his motivating approach and team spirit, and we feel we have a very good driver line-up for what we want to achieve in 2017.”
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Despite this, Vasseur remains cautious about Renault's chances for 2017 and while he expects a big gain over the 2016 season, he says there won't be a significant 'leap' in just one season.
“Whilst 2017 should see a good step forward, we are realistic in our expectations as we know that we won't leapfrog the midfield in a single season. However we are all pushing for a big improvement in competitiveness.”
Meanwhile, Renault has announced Rob White will move from Viry to the team's F1 base in Enstone as operations director, while Ciaron Pilbeam returns as Chief Race Engineer.
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