Jolyon Palmer admits Renault were shocked by McLaren's practice pace
French squad had targeted overhauling McLaren in Bahrain
By William Esler in Bahrain
Last Updated: 04/04/16 2:36pm
Renault's Jolyon Palmer admits they are surprised by McLaren's pace in Bahrain having targeted beating the Woking squad this weekend.
Jenson Button finished the day third quickest for McLaren and best of the rest behind Mercedes, with Kevin Magnussen the best-placed Renault 16th and over a second slower than the 2009 world champion.
In final practice in Australia, the only dry session before qualifying, just half a second had separated the two teams and Renault had targeted overhauling that gap in Bahrain.
"I was surprised, they seemed to be very quick," said Palmer.
"But I can't believe they have changed too much from Melbourne so you never know on a Friday what everyone is running in terms of fuel load and engine mode. We've seen it before they can be quite quick on a Friday and more average on a Saturday, or maybe they've just taken a big step.
"Even if they've turned up their engine, their performance is quick today. They look like there are going to have a solid weekend and we were targeting them based on Melbourne. It is a shame for us, but I know we've something in the pocket for tomorrow [Saturday] anyway."
Palmer finished Friday 18th on the timesheet, but isn't panicking about his pace just yet.
"I think it is reasonably close and we don't know fully what to expect until tomorrow. We don't need to find a huge amount to be back to Melbourne level and thinking about points," he added.
"It is has not been an ideal Friday, but it isn't a write-off yet."
For Renault, much of their first season back in F1 will depend on the success of an engine upgrade set to be introduced at the Canadian GP, but Palmer is adamant the team are not simply in a holding pattern until then.
"I'm looking forward to the Renault engine upgrade, I think it is going to be a big step," he said.
"But at the moment I am still focusing on every grand prix, taking every race as it comes. Obviously it would be nice to have a bit more power, but I don't think they are too far off, they have made a good step over the winter."
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