Renault chassis technical director Nick Chester has admitted that the French manufacturer has been caught by surprise by the rate of progress of the Ferrari team in 2018.

Not that Renault is alone: even Mercedes has conceded that the scuderia has made much more progress in terms of performance this season than they had been expecting. It’s led to a tight battle at the top of the championship.

But Renault have been struggling to keep up with the top two, as Chester was forced to concede.

“I would say, yeah – we are a bit surprised,” he said, pointing to the big step forward Ferrari made with their second-generation engine of the season which was introduced in Montreal.

“They’ve got a strong engine anyway, but it is really quite strong now,” he said. “The performance is right up there.

“It just seems to be more power unit output,” he told Crash.net. “Their straight line speeds are very strong while running a sensible rear wing on the car. So they do seem to just have good power.”

“It does give us a concern. We are obviously in a pretty tight fight, so we have brought stuff all the way up to the shutdown.”

Currently the factory at Enstone is closed and locked up tight while team personnel go on an FIA-mandated two-week summer holiday to recharge their batteries after an exceptionally intensive period of racing.

But as soon as that shutdown is over, Chester and his team will be back hard at work. The plan is to get more aerodynamic upgrades in place in time for the back-to-back Belgium and Italian races that follow the break.

“We’ve already got things in the pipeline that are going to hit after shutdown,” Chester said.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.

“We are going to carry on bringing some aero developments after the shutdown, and it could be tight all year,” he acknowledged. “We have got to work pretty hard.”

The team knows that it also has to start shifting its focus to next year’s car. But Chester pledged not to stop working on the R.S.18 until after the Singapore and Russia events.

“We know we’re going to have to keep going all year. We’re going to have to develop,” he said. “Maybe when we get to sort of race 15, race 16, we can review it.

“Anything that we can find in developing that we can put back on this car we will try and do,” he continued. ““A lot of the work is moving over to ’19 now anyway, and it just depends what we find.

“Probably from now on, there will be a few more updates heading up to around Sochi or Suzuka,” he added. “After that anything will probably be smaller – smaller parts that can come out of the wind tunnel program that comes in ’19.”

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