Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski believes leading Formula 1 teams are at risk of a drop in performance under this season’s new regulations.
In light of a clear deficit in overtaking, F1 pushed through a series of rule changes in 2019 to allow cars to follow one another easier in dirty air having drivers complained in briefings about the disruption while racing.
Since the introduction of the new specification of cars in 2017, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull has opened up a considerable gap to the rest of the field, with the chasing pack around 1-1.5 seconds slower in performance alone.
However, Budkowski, who controversially joined Renault from the FIA last year, reckons the raft of changes will combine in reducing the advantage the top teams have built over the past two seasons.
“I am not going to tell you exactly where we are, but the loss was significant at the beginning yes,” Budkowski said on the anticipated loss in downforce from the 2019 rules, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“It is difficult to say whether it was more significant for us or others, but my personal opinion of this is that the bigger teams, the best teams, will have lost more performance.
“That is because by definition they had a quicker car, so they had a more optimised car. Everything was more in tune and more optimised. So they will have made a bigger step back.
“But they are also better equipped to recover, because they have bigger structures with more resources.
“Also, the understanding they had that allowed them to get to that previous level, they still have it, so they can use it to try to find further performance. So it is difficult to say who has made the bigger step back and who has made the bigger step forward.
“My feeling is that probably you will have closed the gap a little bit between the top teams and the midfield, because the regulations are more restrictive than they were before. There is less available performance.”
Renault achieved its highest finish since returning to F1 in 2016 last year as it sealed fourth-place in the constructors’ championship.
Although the French outfit has designs on making the next step to compete with the big three teams, Budkowski reckons this isn’t a realistic target given “external factors” could impact the pecking order this season.
“Realistically if you look at the situation as it was last year, the gaps, recovering 1.5 seconds of performance over one winter is nearly impossible,” he said.
“Now, we have a regulation change so that could have influenced the pecking order. There are some changes at the front as well that could jeopardise some people’s performance or reliability, so there are external factors, but we are not in control of these.
“From our point of view, it is to get the best possible car out and do the best possible job with the regulations, do our homework and reach our targets.
“Overall the pecking order is a question of relative performance. If we reach our targets of performance we should be progressing compared to last year, and if the others don’t do as good a job then it is going to be good for us.”