Carlos Sainz admits that Honda power upgrade at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago is a worry for Renault. Honda introduced its new engine at its home event, with progress evident after both Honda-powered Toro Rosso's made it into the top ten in qualifying.
The Red Bull junior squad failed to hold onto the points positions however, with Sainz coming across the line to bag a point for Renault. Despite getting the better of the Toro Rossos during the race, the Spaniard says Renault should be worried about Honda's recent progress.
“We have taken the biggest hit from the engine side,” said Sainz. “We thought by Canada when we were clearly leading the midfield, that the B spec had been successful, which it was at the time. Up until Hockenheim we were happy enough with what we had.
"We thought we were going to make it to the end of the year being a Q3 team and scoring points. But then there were the upgrades that Mercedes and Ferrari brought to Austria and Hockenheim and Hungary, and we started to feel them a lot in places like Spa, Monza and Suzuka.
“To compensate for that big engine deficit, we should have brought more aero than what we got, but it is mainly dominated by engine. I managed to overtake both Honda car in the race at Suzuka with better race pace than them, which was a good boost for us. But in qualifying they took a step that for us starts to be a worry. They took a step in qualifying and that puts them in Q3.”
Sainz will leave the Renault works team at the end of 2018 to join McLaren, who run with Renault engines. The French manufacturer confirmed this week that it would be designing a brand new engine for 2019 in a bid to catch up to rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
“I am always optimistic at this time,” Sainz said. “I can also see people inside Renault, inside Viry, so at this time of the year we are optimistic. In winter testing maybe my face changes, but up until then I am going to be optimistic and think that Renault are finally going to deliver an engine that is clearly at the level of Ferrari and Mercedes.
“From what I heard it [the engine] is still going to deliver a step that Renault and McLaren need next year. And thanks to that, hopefully we should be closer in top speeds to our competitors and we shouldn’t start compromising the rear wing for these kinds of tracks. We should start really start to fight the Mercedes and Ferrari cars also on the straights, not only in the corners.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing