Renault believe its engine will “absolutely” have the potential to challenge Mercedes in the 2017 Formula One season. The manufacturer has not been able to catch Mercedes since the change in engine regulation at the start of 2014, but they believe a total restructure of the engine will give them the potential to match the German manufacturer. “We have a completely new engine architecture that we are introducing this year, and the first challenge with that will be to make it reliable,” Renault F1’s managing director, Cyril Abiteboul, told motorsport.com. “We already know for sure that it will offer the potential of performance to match Mercedes. There is absolutely no doubt about that. And maybe in the future the potential to overtake them. “But first it has to be reliable. That is the main challenge, and that is what we want to get. Also, reliability will be important to develop the chassis.” Abiteboul may be confident in the engine, but that doesn’t mean he expects the Renault works team to be at the front of the grid. He has stood by his aim to be challenging in the midfield. “We will have the capacity to be in the race against Williams, against Force India, against Toro Rosso,” he said. “So I am clear that the target is to be on par with those teams and overtake them over the course of the season. “I think in the first part of the season we will still have a handicap of where we are coming from, despite the rest of the new regulations, but I expect our development rate will be stronger than these teams.” As for the bigger teams and moving to the sharp end of the field, Renault aren’t predicting that for a while. The team have already said that they don’t expect regular podiums until 2018 at the earliest. Reaching the sharp end of the field is part of a long term strategy the works team have had in place since returning to F1, but that all depends on moving forwards this season. “When it comes to the bigger teams, our plan and the whole strategy of the five-year plan that we put together is to kick off a virtuous circle that will give us access to extra funding and allow us to target the bigger teams in the near future.” So, Renault may be sure their engine has the potential to challenge Mercedes, but the works team have a while to go until they’re racing side by side with the silver arrows. For more Formula One news and discussions head over to the RaceDepartment Formula One sub forum and join in with your fellow community members. Will Renault be a part of the battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship this year, or is that something for the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!