Renault engineering director Pat Symonds has stoked up the battle between the Enstone team and rivals Toyota as the Formula One season enters its home stretch with a first visit to Singapore.
Speaking in the build-up to the first ever grand prix to be run at night, Symonds suggested that, while the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship was too close to call with four races to run, Renault had the better chance of being 'best of the rest' behind this season's leading trio of Ferrari, McLaren and BMW Sauber.
Two successive fourth places for Fernando Alonso in Belgium and Italy closed a ten-point gap between the protagonists heading into the 'flyaway' conclusion to the season, and Symonds reckons that that points to Renault holding the upper hand.
"You can't get any closer than equality!" he smiled, referring to the tie the teams currently find themselves in, "Obviously, as the number of races decreases, even a constant gap becomes more difficult to deal with, so it's nice to have made up the ground we needed to so quickly.
"I do believe though that, on balance, our car is better than the Toyota. It's very close and there are certainly days when they might be stronger than us and days when we are stronger than them. We beat them in Monza by out-racing them as a team, but it's far from over and we know we are going to have a tough fight on our hands through to the end of the season."
With most teams now focusing on the heavily-revised regulations for 2009, the midfield cars can expect to run without much modification from now on, although Symonds revealed that Renault will have a couple of tweaks for Singapore.
"We will have the final updates for the R28, including a new front wing," he confirmed, "In previous years, when we have been working on the new car in the wind tunnel, we have always hoped to see developments that we can use on the current car, but it's not the case this year because the aerodynamics for next season are so different. So this really is the end of the updates, other than any changes that may be made for reliability."
Alonso's performance in the Italian Grand Prix came as a surprise to most, even at Enstone, and Symonds admits that the adverse weather over Monza certainly played a part, but he was quick to praise the level of teamwork that allowed the regie
to claw back the deficit to its main rival.
"We hadn't had a great test at Monza, so we didn't think it was going to be a great circuit for us," he confirmed, "We arrived there knowing that we still had a lot of set-up work to do and, therefore, the poor weather was a mixed blessing because, although we couldn't continue exploring alternative set-up options, it probably equalised things a little bit and allowed us to punch above our weight.