Renault has made a “very visible step forward” with its Formula 1 power unit performance, according to McLaren technical director James Key.

McLaren is heading into its third year powered by Renault engines after making the switch from Honda following its divorce at the end of 2017.

The Woking squad outperformed the French manufacturer works squad last season by claiming fourth place in the constructors’ championship, and Key believes Renault’s engine ended 2019 “very much in the mix” with its rivals Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda.

“I think one of the positives from last year is Renault made a very visible step forward, data and straight-line speed and so on, and that was definitely part of how the team improved last year.

“I think the competitiveness - although we saw the Ferrari steal a bit of a march - the competitiveness of the Renault engine was pretty good last year and very much in the mix with Mercedes, and Honda weren’t so far away either.

“We’ll see how we go now going into this next year, but the times when PU were vastly different, which wasn’t that long ago, pretty much disappeared last year.”

McLaren will end its current supply deal with Renault at the end of 2020 to return to Mercedes-Benz power units from the start of 2021 in a deal that will last through until the end of 2024, reviving a partnership that previously ran from 1995 until the end of the 2014 season.

The British squad is aiming to maintain its position at the head of the midfield pack in 2020 and continue to close in on the established top three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

McLaren's MCL35 2020 car has hit the track in Barcelona ahead of pre-season testing which starts on Wednesday. The team, along with Renault and Williams, is carrying out one of its two permitted filming days. 



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