Renault F1 president Alain Dassas has set a high target for his struggling team, asking the struggling Enstone operation to aim for podium finishes before the end of the season.

After two years of title success, Dassas - like the rest of the squad - has had to reset his sights for 2007, as the R27 has proven less than competitive against new cars from McLaren and Ferrari. Indeed, the Anglo-French operation is also struggling to match BMW Sauber, which has stolen third place in the pecking order from the rest of the field, and finds itself embroiled in a midfield scrap with the likes of Red Bull and Williams.

"When I was made head of the team, I knew that we couldn't keep on winning for ever," he admitted to the team's website, "I even thought that 2006 would be a less fruitful season than the previous one. Today, I'm trying to make my own contribution to solving the problems. It's when things aren't going well that you have to be present, listen to what's going on and get all the information. I'm showing that I'm backing the team and that we're unified."

Efforts in the build-up to the Spanish Grand Prix, which saw the cars of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella turn out with a substantial overhaul since the three 'flyaways' that opened the season, were rewarded with seventh place for the Finn, but Dassas admits that there is still a long way to go before he would consider the team a podium contender.

"We've seen a slight improvement, which is encouraging, and Heikki's race was also very positive, as it was very consistent," he reported after Barcelona, "However, we ran into problems with our refuelling rigs, which obliged us to make three stops instead of the two initially scheduled, so we ended up in seventh and ninth places."

Despite the early season struggle, Dassas insists that the team remains positive that it will be able to make up ground on those ahead of it.

"Morale is good, that's for sure," he said, "The people from Viry and Enstone know that Formula One is made of highs and lows. They know how to handle fluctuations in competitiveness. The engineers are working hard to solve our problems, I can assure you.

"We have pinpointed the zones of the car that are of concern. Now all we have to do is to find, and apply, solutions to get us back on the right track. There's still work to be done. We need to be fighting for podium places by the end of the season, and to try and become the third quickest team. That's the minimum required.

"I'm fully confident and I know we're capable of achieving that. The car's improving at every race. There's obvious progress, although it's in small steps at the moment. We just need to accelerate that development."



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