It may have started pointless in Melbourne, but Renault is optimistic that they could be as high as fourth in F1’s pecking order by season’s end.
With Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull demonstrating that they have maintained their superiority over the chasing pack during the winter, the intense battle for ‘best-of-the-rest’ status will ultimately be for fourth place in the Constructors’ standings. In that fight are Williams, Force India, Haas, Toro Rosso and Renault.
The Australian Grand Prix weekend was tricky for Renault, with Jolyon Palmer retiring from the race due to brake anchoring issues, while Nico Hulkenberg narrowly missed out on a point after having to complete an ambitious two-stop strategy.
Despite leaving the curtain-raiser without a point to their name and with performance to find, the team is still optimistic that they can eventually be the fourth best team on a regular basis by the end of the year.
“The target was top five but where we’re starting is quite close to that,” Jolyon Palmer stated in an interview featured on Motorsport.com. “It’s very, very tight – Williams is a little bit ahead, but we’ve got the resource to move through the year and aim for that fourth spot. Maybe not in terms of final position, but at least in terms of performance in the latter part of the year.”
Being a manufacturer team is unquestionably an advantage for Renault in a season where the development race will be as fierce as the battles on track. This was something that Cyril Abiteboul noted pre-season, citing that teams like Force India would struggle to keep up, much to the displeasure of a decidedly nonplussed Vijay Mallya.
Renault does, however, have a lot of ground to make up before they can lead the midfield fight. Williams’ FW40 – in the hands of Felipe Massa, at least – seemed fairly formidable in Melbourne versus the competition, with the Brazilian finishing sixth while unthreatened by those behind all afternoon.
It’s certainly not an insurmountable deficit, particularly in a year like this, but to set fourth in the pecking order as the goal at this stage is decidedly ambitious.
Image Credit: Sutton Motorsport Images