Renault F1 expect 'good step forward' in 2017

Britain Formula One - F1 - British Grand Prix 2016 - Silverstone, England - 10/7/16 Renault's Jolyon Palmer is pushed back to the pit stop after leaving without a rear tyre during the race REUTERS/Matthew Childs Livepic

LONDON (Reuters) - Renault expect to make "a good step forward" in Formula One next season after building up staff numbers and investing in new equipment and facilities this year, team bosses said on Thursday.

"The change of regulations could mean quite a shake-up in the order of relative competitiveness, plus the fruits of our expansion will be ramping up," team principal Frederic Vasseur said in a look forward to 2017.

"We made an early start to developing next year’s car with this in mind.

"Whilst 2017 should see a good step forward, we are realistic in our expectations as we know that we won’t leapfrog the midfield in a single season," he added. "However, we are all pushing for a big improvement in competitiveness."

Renault Sport Racing managing director Cyril Abiteboul said the workforce at the Enstone factory in England had increased by 20 percent since Renault took on the failing Lotus team at the end of 2015.

As part of a recruitment drive, Rob White had transferred from the Renault engine plant at Viry-Chatillon to become operations director, while Ciaron Pilbeam had returned as chief race engineer after a stint at McLaren.

Abiteboul said work on extending the main factory building at Enstone, to house the expansion of almost every department, would begin soon.

On the engine side, performance and reliability had been improved notably, with Red Bull winning two races in 2016 with the French manufacturer's rebranded units.

"Next year promises a fantastic show. The cars will be faster and more aggressive looking. The tyres will be wide. The action will be tremendously exciting. We certainly expect to be in the thick of it from the very beginning," said Vasseur.

Renault have a changed line-up next year, with Germany's Nico Hulkenberg joining from Force India to race alongside Britain's Jolyon Palmer.

World champions with Spaniard Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006, the team finished ninth of the 11 this year with only eight points.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

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