Ex-Formula 1 driver-turned-pundit Karun Chandhok believes that Renault is still too far behind the winning teams to sign a top tier driver. Seven-time Grand Prix victor Daniel Ricciardo signed a two year deal with Renault after spending five years with Red Bull.
Renault is currently building back towards the front of the field after rejoining the grid in 2016. It ended the 2018 season fourth in the constructors' standings, 29 points clear of Haas, but is still far from being able to compete against the championship contending teams.
But Chandhok, who will work with Sky Sports F1 as a pundit in 2019, doesn't think that the team is ready to work with an already established driver.
"Having Ricciardo as an ‘A-lister’ join them has kind of caught them slightly off-guard,” Chandhok said at the Autosport International show. “It’s probably a year [too] early for them until they are really ready for a top line driver.
"I think a good year for them will be fourth and maybe the odd podium and sort of establishing themselves as fourth. Last year they weren’t clearly ahead of Force India or Haas in terms of pace and this year they need to do that. They are the manufacturer team on the path to becoming a top team, so they’ve got to establish themselves as clearly the fourth best."
And Chandhok doesn't believe that anyone will be able to make significant progress to close down Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in front: "You’ve got Force India with new investment and new money coming in, Haas have had a great year and are going to want to build on that with their collaboration with Ferrari,” he said.
“Both McLaren and Williams are going to look to have better years, and Toro Rosso, they are collaborating much more closely with Red Bull than they have in the past and then there’s Sauber with Kimi Raikkonen. The midfield was super tight last year, so it will remain close but I don’t think any of the midfield teams are going to bridge the gap to the top three in 2019.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing