Renault Sport managing director Cyril Abiteboul says he 'feels' for Formula 1's smaller teams coming into 2017, predicting that an 'arms race' will serve to benefit those with greater resource.

Ten years after its last world title, Renault returned to F1 as a constructor in 2016 but endured a tough season as the legacies of its late Lotus takeover hampered development of the ageing RS16 package.

Ending the season ninth in the constructors' standings, Renault nonetheless come into 2017 with the RS17 with far loftier targets having set its sights on the top five.

F1 2017 is here - get the dates, the line-up and the TV schedules ahead of the season

Explaining why it anticipates such a step forward in 2017, though Abiteboul accepts will initially be difficult to get on terms with established front runners Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari he predicts Renault's sheer resource advantage alone will allow it to leapfrog the likes of Williams and Force India.

Indeed, Abiteboul - former team boss at the now defunct Caterham team - sympathises with smaller outfits that he fears will have been forced to blow most of their budget just building cars to the latest regulations and will be unable to develop much beyond the first rounds.

"It's that sort of thing when you're thinking about your target, you are not really thinking about who is behind, you're thinking about who is ahead. We know Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull will be ahead. The question is McLaren, Renault, I have my view on Williams.

"I think this season will also really be an arms race. I really feel for the teams who are under resourced because clearly when I see this car that we are presenting today is not the car that will test in Barcelona and the car in Barcelona is not the car that will race in Melbourne. Race by race we've got an introduction of new parts. Frankly, I have been in a small team, you know that it was not super successful, but I really feel for those teams that will have to keep that resource, the regulations will be very difficult for small teams.

"I think most of the car build budget for Force India will be gone by now just to cope with the new regulations. So that is something that we are also taking into account. With the level of resources that we have we should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas, like Force India and so on and so forth."

Even so, Abiteboul is more cautious about results on track, suggesting podiums are beyond expectation for the time being and won't be required if it is targeting fifth.

"I don't want to say it's not possible because that will undermine the motivation and the drive that I want everyone to keep in mind, but frankly it is not our target. You don't need podiums to finish fifth in the championship and if this happens I will be partying all night!"

Launching the RS17 in London just under a week before it hits the track for the first time in Spain, the team will feature a revised driver line-up of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.

Nico Hulkenberg career profile by Crash_net

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