By Andrew Benson
Renault will become a major force in Formula One next season - and should not be underestimated for the remaining three races of this year, according to their design boss Mike Gascoyne.
The Renault technical director believes the team's strong performance in 2003, which culminated in Fernando Alonso's victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, will help turn them into regular race-winners in 2004.
And they could yet sneak another win this season, despite the widespread belief that Hungary was their last chance.
"I think we can compete for regular wins next year - next year we will get two, three or four wins and finish in the top three in the championship," Gascoyne told this website.
"Renault's aim was to be fourth [in the constructors' championship] last year, to be a closer fourth but fighting for regular podiums this year, next year to challenge for race wins and in 2005 to challenge for the championship. We're in front of that target."
And Gascoyne cautioned against assuming that Renault would not be able to battle with Williams, McLaren and Ferrari again this season because the remaining races are on circuits that favour engine power.
Renault's engine this season lacks power compared with those of the other top teams.
"I think we were the quickest car in Hungary all weekend," Gascoyne said.
"People said the Williamses set faster race laps, but Fernando was not pushing after his second pit stop.
"I reckon people will say there is no way we can be competitive in the next three races, because we'll lose out on the straights.
"Well, Monza is an interesting circuit. Yes, you have long straights, but most have quick corners on to them, and that's where we go well.
"That's why we were so competitive at Barcelona and Silverstone because we can be quick on to the straights, even if the others catch us up once they get on to them.
"We won't win in Monza - Williams will have the fastest car there. But we might be the quickest car behind Williams, which McLaren and Ferrari won't expect.
"Remember that Jarno [Trulli] nearly finished third there last year after starting from the back.
"Indianapolis will be tougher, and Suzuka depends on the tyre situation.
"If Michelin still have an advantage over Bridgestone, it will be good for us because it is all fast corners. I think the car will be stonking there."
For 2004, Gascoyne said Renault's decision to ditch their radical wide-angle engine for a more conventional one would not harm them.
The Renault V10 lacks power this year, but the wide vee-angle was designed to help weight distribution.
"We understand why the car is good and we'll make sure the engine we put in the car will have the same mechanical properties as the current one," he said.