Daniel Ricciardo concedes there is “no hard evidence” to suggest Renault will continue to lead the midfield fight in the 2019 Formula 1 season. 

Renault finished fourth in the 2018 constructors’ championship and aims to further close the gap to F1’s leading three teams of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull this year. 

Newcomer Ricciardo, who has switched from Red Bull to join Renault, says he is unable to make any predictions about where the French manufacturer stands in the pecking order following pre-season testing. 

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"It is guessing,” he explained. “I would like to think that we are at the front of it, but there is no hard evidence that we are.

"Our objective first and foremost is to be fourth or better, but it is really trying to hone in on the gap to the top three. As you know, it's big so it's not going to happen overnight.

"But absolutely the target this year is to close it in and try to develop the car.

"Speaking to [Renault teammate] Nico [Hulkenberg] and understanding how the team was last year, and that the rate of development wasn't always as fast as they would have liked, that is another thing this year.

"Just to understand what the car needs but also then to see it start to happen and happen a bit quicker.

"The team is building infrastructure, so it's expanding. They are addressing these things but that will also dictate perhaps how much we can pull away or catch the others.”

Asked where he expects Renault to be at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Ricciardo replied:  “I still don’t really know what to expect in Melbourne

“I think the midfield battle will be very close. I don’t expect to be on the front row, but I don’t expect to be on the back row of the grid. We will be somewhere there in the middle. 

“But it could even come down to which driver does the better lap in Q2 or Q3. A lot of the cars are going to be very close. 

“So it could just be whoever does a cleaner lap – that could make a difference of one or three positions. I’m looking forward to seeing where everyone is at. It has been pretty close in testing. 

“I also don’t think what we will see in Melbourne is going to be the way the whole season plays out. It is going to change quite a bit throughout the season, especially in the first six races.”