Christian Horner has applauded Renault’s 2016 improvements, saying they have “probably halved the gap to Mercedes” this season.
Last year Red Bull were all set to part ways with Renault, blaming the latter for their failure to win a grand prix.
However, with none of the other engine manufacturers prepared to do business with them, Red Bull were forced to re-sign with Renault.
This season, running TAG Heuer branded Renault engines, Red Bull have emerged as Mercedes’ main challenger, even winning a grand prix as Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in Spain.
“The most significant area is on the engine, and credit where’s credit’s due,” Red Bull team boss Horner explained to Autosport.
“The guys [at Renault], with the restructuring they put into place at the back end of last year, the philosophy changes made, the developments brought in, the engine has clearly made a step forward.
“We’ve probably halved the gap to Mercedes, and there seems to be a real direction, and good leadership technically at Viry.
“We’ve made progress on the chassis, and of course these things have to work in combination, but the biggest element I would say is the step forward in the engine.”
Such has been Renault’s progress that Horner feels a similar stride forward in 2017 will allow them to “significantly” close up on Mercedes.
He added: “The engine we had this year was delivered absolutely on target to what was projected pre-season.
“So if they can do the same again, then hopefully we should really reduce that gap significantly to at least this year’s Mercedes – and who knows what they have in the pipeline for next year – but it should be another good step.”