The RS17 is an important car for Renault. After limping through 2016, clearly healing the wounds suffered by the financially beleaguered Enstone outfit throughout 2015, this season marks the first true signpost of their rank among F1’s other manufacturers.

Curiously, Renault Sport President Jerome Stoll offered a specific target for the season during the launch of the new car in London on Tuesday. “Since we have for the first time a car that has been developed by us, we expect to be fifth in the championship,” he stated.

Optimistic or pessimistic?

I’d say it’s a very clever approach to a very important season…

rs17 

First of all, if the RS17 is as fast as it looks, Renault can aspire to far greater feats in 2017. The livery is a beautiful combination of their testing livery from last season, coupled with the famous Renault yellow. Echoes of Robert Kubica’s last F1 car – at least to date – are found here and that is most certainly a positive.

A winner as far as aesthetics are concerned, but seemingly not as dominant in the performance stakes. Stoll’s stance is hardly surprising, however, given that Renault purchased the Enstone team with a long-term plan in place.

With Renault’s Carlos Ghosn initially predicting a three-year haul to make a return to the podium, a fifth place finish in the Constructors’ Championship would mark solid progress towards this goal.

Given that Williams, who finished fifth in the standings last season, managed a podium en route, it’s not out of the question that Renault could hit both their year two and year three target this coming campaign.

As such, Stoll’s comments are far from pessimistic in reality. They are simply pragmatic.

This is precisely the sort of approach that would have been helpful to the McLaren Honda partnership. Ron Dennis spent the entirety of 2014 building an impression that Honda were about to explode back onto the scene with their first V6 Hybrid Powertrain. When the partnership fell far short of matching these lofty expectations, it resulted in outrageous performance forecasts from Honda, frustration at Woking and nearly tore the partnership apart.

If Renault turn up at Melbourne with a race-winning package, fantastic news for the board. If they clearly have a midfield scrap on their hands this season, then it at least marks progress towards the eventual end goal. Stoll and co’s approach to this season creates this nearly win-win situation.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and Renault know it. It says a lot about the mindset of manufacturer teams in F1 that such a sensible approach to building a winning team is seen as curious. Bravo Renault, for sticking to the game plan. And thanks for giving us a pretty car to look at year-long.

Bravo Renault, for sticking to the game plan.

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