Renault F1 technical director Bob Bell has said that the Enstone operation will continue to press on with its 2008 campaign until pre-set targets are achieved, notably finishing fourth in the constructors' championship.
While a lot of teams have confirmed that they have largely switched their attentions to the design and development of next year's machines, complete with the headache of complying with a new set of regulations, Bell insists that there is still a lot for the regie
to play for as it battles Toyota for the 'best of the rest' accolade.
"It's a battle we have
to win, and it means as much to us as the fight between Ferrari and McLaren for top honours means to them," he claimed, "We're taking the fight very seriously. We stated very clearly at the start of the season that we intended to finish at least fourth and end the season as potentially the third quickest team and we intend to achieve that objective.
"We started the year over a second a lap behind the frontrunners and said that, by the end of the season, we wanted to have developed the car to a point where we could compete for podiums, which is what we've done. We recognise that we're not going to overhaul McLaren and Ferrari this season, but we can be in the mix and fighting for podiums and that's a real credit to the enormous amount of development work and effort that has gone in over the course of the season."
Bell and his technical team received a massive, if unexpected, fillip courtesy of Fernando Alonso's victory in Singapore last time out, and all at Enstone head to this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix energised by having grabbed fourth in points from Toyota with three races to run.
"That's very important because this team has been through a very difficult period since the championship years of 2005 and 2006," he admitted, "We needed to bounce back and regain our self-confidence and demonstrate that, as a team, we could still produce a competitive car and win races. We've done that and the result has not only lifted everybody's morale for the final three races but, more importantly, renewed our self-belief, which is so important for next year.
"I think [success in Singapore] was down to a combination of reasons, one of which was the new venue and the fact that Fernando and the team are both very good at dealing with new challenges. We arrived well prepared, which helped us get the best out of the car, plus we had an aerodynamic upgrade and operated it differently in terms of set-up, which gained us a bit of performance. So it was just a step forward in all areas, which culminated in us having a car that really suited the track and the conditions.
"Luck undoubtedly played its part, but Fernando produced a brilliant tactical drive. For me, it was the Fernando of old – he never gave up and, when the time came to really push hard to gain an advantage, he did so and brought home the maximum points.
"There was certainly an element of luck with the safety car, but Fernando had been on it all weekend and, after the second safety car, he pulled out an immediate gap over [Nico] Rosberg and [Lewis] Hamilton, which confirmed the pace of the car and what an outstanding job he did."
Heading to Japan next is also a bonus for Renault, as the team achieved its best result of the tough 2007 season at Fuji, when rookie Heikki Kovalainen made its through the rain-inspired chaos to claim second place behind current McLaren team-mate Hamilton. Bell admits that it was good to be heading back to a venue with good memories, but insisted that he was not expecting a similar result this time around - unless the weather intervened again.
"After our result in Singapore, we're certainly approaching Fuji with optimism, but we aren't putting any new developments on the car or doing anything special in terms of preparation, other than the normal rigorous approach that we take to each circuit," he pointed out, "As we saw last year, however, rain in that part of the world is a distinct possibility and that could play to our advantage."