Renault technical director Nick Chester believes that the performance difference across the Formula One grid could be reduced in 2019, bringing a more competitive year.
Chester conceded that whilst the exact running order of the teams couldn’t be determined, he believed that the teams would be closer together in performance.
Following changes to the regulations for 2019, where new-specification bodywork is designed to allow Formula One cars to race closer together, the field was expected to stretch out, with the bigger-budget teams being able to steal a march on the competition.
Renault have had a productive winter testing period, setting the fastest time in the first test and completing high mileage across all days.
However, despite refusing to be drawn in on whether Renault could make the step forward and compete with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, he suspected a reduced performance differential between teams.
“If anything it looks like the grid has closed up, so maybe everybody’s closer together,” said Chester.
“All I can say at the moment is that Ferrari look like they’re a step ahead in front, after that it’s very close. We probably haven’t seen Mercedes’ true pace yet, and there are a lot of other teams that are super close and I wouldn’t want to rank exactly where they are.
“I haven’t got a really good picture about where Red Bull are at the moment. I couldn’t really estimate their true place, but it does look like a lot of teams are pretty close.
“We’re getting a better picture every day as teams run with lower fuel.”
Renault’s head of power unit Remi Taffin also believed that progress had been made with their power unit, believing that they have ‘hit high targets’ and made ‘one of their biggest’ steps in recent years.
“It’s actually a big step that we’ve done over winter, it’s also fair to say that it’s one of the biggest that we’ve done in the last five years. Especially when we look at winter development time.
“We have set some high targets for this year, which we’ve hit, but it’s the same each year, we need to go out and see where we are on-track and then we will have to wait for everyone to see that in the qualifying and in the race. So far, we’re quite happy with what we’ve achieved.”