Such is the competitive nature of this year's F1 midfield, returnee Renault can make inroads with small tweaks to its RS16.

That's the view of technical director Nick Chester who, while frustrated at a brace of eleventh-place finishes that came so close to bringing the team its first points of the season, believes that Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer can get amongst the top ten on a regular basis.

"On race pace there's a very close group in the midfield," Chester confirmed in the build-up to this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, "We saw this in Australia and we saw this in Bahrain, and it means we need to maximise every opportunity we have and every performance increase we can find could mean the difference between finishing just shy of the points or scoring.

"Our qualifying pace has been behind our race pace in relative terms, so this is an area of focus, but one which goes hand-in-hand with the target of overall performance gains. We have some small aero parts to try [in China], but we will have more further down the line with more aero and engine updates which should mean a tangible step forward. There's a tight spread of cars ahead of us, so we don't need a lot to make a decent improvement."

The Bahrain race saw only one Renault reach the finish, with the other retiring at the end of the formation lap, but Magnussen's race was also compromised, as a harsh penalty for missing the weighbridge in practice relegated the Dane to a pit-lane start and another fight through the field.

"It was good race from Kevin to finish just shy of the points from a pit-lane start," Chester admitted, "He didn't put a foot wrong and the three-stop strategy worked well. The RS16 performed well on the supersofts in the race and, were it not for the penalty, Kevin should have started from a reasonable position on the grid and that could well have led to points.

"[Jolyon] had a hydraulic pump fail, which is an extremely rare occurrence. The pump was just over a tenth of the way through its normal working life, and we're working with our supplier to ascertain the cause and have quarantined the batch of components until we can understand the issue, [but] it was a great shame for Jolyon to have missed the race like that."



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