Renault 'disappointed' not to be closer to top three

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After the first three race of the 2018 season, Renault technical director Bob Bell admits he had hoped for more progress from his team over the winter.

The French manufacturer is midway through its long-term project to return to the front of the field by 2020 and was aiming to close the gap to Formula One's big three -- Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull -- this season. Although the new car has emerged near the front of F1's tight midfield battle in qualifying this season, Renault is currently fifth in the standings, trailing engine customers McLaren (by three points) and Red Bull (by 30 points).

While Bell sees progress, he admits he had hoped to close the gap to the front of the grid by more at the start of the season.

"I would say we are disappointed we are not further up," he said. "We had hoped to take a bit more lap time out of the top three teams over the winter and we haven't. If anything they might have moved further ahead, so we are a little bit disappointed about that.

"I think we are reasonably pleased with how we have positioned ourselves to McLaren, which we were very worried about when they came on board with the engine but clearly Toro Rosso and Haas have done a great job over the winter and are making life very difficult for us.

"It's going to be nip and tuck with them all season and McLaren are going to develop -- McLaren are very good at developing to recover any losses from the start. It's going to be really close fought. We had hoped to be a little bit further ahead at the start but this isn't an exact science and we know we can do a good development job in season."

While Renault is still trailling the top three teams in terms of resources and headcount, Bell says that must not be used as an excuse for the size of the gap.

"We didn't do a good enough job. We weren't as smart as they were over the winter in designing and developing the car. We are still growing, we are still developing, we are still getting our methodologies right and we are still recruiting people and building facilities.

"I don't want to keep singing that song as an excuse but we are not quite as mature as the top three teams are and they have still got the edge when it comes to building a new car."

But Bell is confident Renault can make progress over the rest of the season.

"I don't know if we could halve the gap but I think there is a reasonable chance we can start to close it because there is a law of diminishing returns because and they are going at that and we do have an easier path to finding benefits than they do."