Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul says there is no reason why his team should still be lagging behind Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of engine power next year.
Renault has struggled to match the power output of its rivals since the start of turbo-hybrid era in 2014 and customer team Red Bull, which will switch to Honda power next year, often criticised the French manufacturer for its lack of power.
Abiteboul believes the gap in performance between Renault's power unit and the class-leading Ferrari and Mercedes engines was over 50bhp in qualifying this year and roughly 25bhp in the race. But the Renault boss says there is no reason why Renault shouldn't close the gap over the winter break and hopes his team will start the 2019 season on an equal footing with the most powerful engines on the grid.
"We're missing about 15 to 20 kilowatts of engine power [20-27bhp] in the race, which under certain conditions could be made up for by the Red Bull chassis. But in qualifying we estimate our deficit at 40 kilowatts [53bhp], and that's significant," Abiteboul told Auto Motor und Sport.
"With a customer engine from Mercedes or Ferrari we would have qualified in seventh place in Abu Dhabi. This shows that we have a better chassis than our competitors [in the midfield], but also shows we are not as good as the three top teams.
"That's why the main focus at first is on engine development. Next year, I don't want to have to say anymore that we lacked too much power in qualifying. There's no reason why we shouldn't close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari with the engine over the winter. With the chassis it will take a little longer."
The Renault factory team finished fourth in the constructors' championship this year, but was 297 points off Red Bull in third place. Abiteboul is not expecting his team to start challenging the top three in the next 12 months but does expect to see the gap reduce in size.
"It's hard for me today to set targets for next year," he added. "In sport, that always depends a bit on the performance of the others. But if the curve points upwards like ours, you want this trend to continue.
"Maybe we won't be able to do that in terms of the world championship position, but we want to reduce the gap to the top. Let's wait and see what happens with Red Bull and Honda. Red Bull never gets tired of telling how good Honda is compared to us. May I say that Toro Rosso is still behind us?"