Renault is hoping for a 0.3s reduction in lap time from engine performance alone at the start of the year and a further 0.3s-0.4s over the remainder of the season.
The team launched its new car, the R.S.17, on Tuesday predicting overall lap time gains of 3.5-4.0s as a result of Formula One's new regulations and the extra mechanical grip from Pirelli's new wider tyres. In comparison, a 0.3s gain in engine performance seems rather small, but in terms of normal season-to-season development in static regulations (the engine rules have not changed from last year) it is significant. In order to make that leap, Renault has completely changes its engine concept this year, which it is confident will provide even more performance as the season develops.
"We started from scratch completely, which is quite brave because we had a good product last year, it was decent what we had done - more than decent actually, I think we were the best in terms of reliability," Renault Sport managing director Cyril Abiteboul said. "We have decided to start from scratch again, but in Formula One, clearly, if you don't attack you're dead.
"We saw that if we want to be serious about our ambition to catch up and overtake the best in class, which is Mercedes, we had to envisage a completely different philosophy, which is what we have done this year. So the first thing to get right is reliability -- that's what will have to come first.
"In terms of performance gain we are targeting 0.3s between how we finished the last season and how we start the new season -- I am just talking about engine to engine, nothing related to the rest of the car -- and we hope to make more or less an equivalent step over the course of the season.
"We think between 0.3s and 0.4s is what we want to achieve over the course of the development, but all of that will only be possible if we have the reliability. Because if you don't have the reliability then it really screws your engine introduction plan and what you were supposed to bring for engine No.2 or engine No.3 will not be available because you have to fix your engine issues."
Renault engine boss Remi Taffin said a major effort had gone into the new engine, which started development in 2015 and first ran on a dyno in June ast year.
"Ninety-five per cent is different, but it'll still look like a V6 turbo! We put a lot of effort to gain on the weight on every single part as we knew we need to make an effort on that part.
"This engine is more based on what we'll be doing for the next three years. When you say are you on the limit? No, not yet but the plan is there and we'll be on the limit for sure with what we've got in mind and the rest is....when you put an engine in the car, it's more how you install it, the cooling is much different to what we did last year, the way we installed the ERS is different. The way also we get the engine into the car is different. Some of the concept, the choices we've made are different, so...it's 95 per cent different."