Renault has been caught “slightly off-guard” by Daniel Ricciardo coming on board since they are not yet ready for such a talented driver, says Ex-Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok.
The Aussie announced his intention to switch teams in 2019 after watching the French team’s strong performance in the 2018 season.
Renault returned to F1 in 2016 and finished fourth in the team’s standings last year, staying ahead of Haas by 29 points. But, they did not take a single podium and were nearly 300 points behind 3rd placed Red Bull.
Renault has set a target of winning races from 2020. But they are nowhere near that capability, according to Chandhok. The former F1 driver has returned to Sky Sports’ broadcasting team for the upcoming F1 season.
Speaking at Autosport International show, he said: “Having Ricciardo as an‘A-lister’join them has kind of caught them slightly off-guard,”
“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.
The midfield fight in 2018 was pretty strong, with only 45 points separating fifth-placed Haas from eighth-placed Sauber. Chandhok believes the fight will intensify even further this year, but none of them will be able to bridge the gap with the top three outfits.
“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 explained.
“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.”