Nico Hulkenberg admits he will approach his first season as a Renault Sport F1 driver with modest initial expectations since he expects the team to still be playing catch up following its late decision to return to the sport last year.

Hulkenberg switches from Force India to Renault in one of the higher profile off-season team moves, the German paired with Jolyon Palmer as the manufacturer looks to build on a disappointing comeback season in 2016 that yielded just three top ten results.

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The legacy of Renault's relatively late decision to assume control of the Lotus F1 team ahead of the 2016 season, thus not giving it time to overhaul the ageing chassis, though Hulkenberg expects a substantial step forward in 2017 he plays down the prospect of immediate points.

"I think next year is still a build-up year. You have to be realistic and this year they come from a pretty difficult year. Obviously when they bought the team last year they were in a very tricky situation, especially at the beginning of the season but didn't really do much in terms of development with this car.

"I hope next year is a little bit better already, but don't expect to be in the top six straight away, or even top 10 probably. It's going to be challenging. These things take long to build the infrastructure back up and get good people on board and develop the car."

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Renault finished ninth of the 11 constructors' in 2016 but enjoyed a relative upturn in pace towards the end of the season, while its improving V6 Hybrid engine enjoyed success in the back of the Red Bull Racing car.

The team, which hadn't competed as a fully-fledged manufacturer entry since 2009 (though it did compete under the Renault banner in 2010) took back control of the Enstone-based outfit at the end of 2015 and began instigating a major behind-the-scenes restructure, which is still ongoing.

Ciaran Pilbeam has recently been returned to Renault from McLaren to become new Chief Race Engineer

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