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Renault can't match Red Bull/McLaren until '19 because of 'deficit'

Hulkenberg Renault Red Bull F1 2017

Renault expects its chassis' performance deficit is too "substantial" to beat its Formula 1 customer teams Red Bull and McLaren this season, but wants to match them by 2019.

The French manufacturer improved from ninth to sixth in the F1 constructors' championship in 2017, and its best results were five top-six finishes.

It finished more than 300 points behind Red Bull, which won three races and scored 13 podiums.

The Renault chassis improved dramatically through the season, ending it as the fourth quickest, but Red Bull's performance exposed a substantial remaining deficit and McLaren is also expected to leapfrog Renault in 2018 after ditching Honda.

Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul expects his customer teams to be ahead this season, but wants the gap closed during the campaign and obliterated for the next.

"We know we have a substantial deficit to Red Bull in terms of chassis - in terms of aerodynamics and mechanical platform," Abiteboul told Autosport.

"We know Red Bull very well and that's a fantastic benchmark. I think they have one of the best chassis if not the best chassis out there right now - we'll see what they come up with.

"McLaren is a bit more of an unknown for us, because they had a different chassis and a different engine, different drivers, so it's very difficult to compare. It will be an interesting benchmark.

"I think in terms of overall capacities, in the course of this year we should be able to match them.

"Having said that, they are very stable organisations, which are very well structured, very well organised, very well funded.

"We are still a work in progress, we are still growing up and still in the process of building our own team.

"I think it's not before 2019 that we can be in a position to fully match them, even if I would like to see a very small gap between us and them in the process this year."

When asked whether that meant Renault was aiming for a minimum of fifth place in the 2018 championship, Abiteboul replied: "We will confirm our sporting target when we present our car, but clearly it has to be in that direction."

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