Renault Sport F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul says the French outfit and Daniel Ricciardo likely won't be in a position to win until 2020, with an onslaught on the world title expected in the year after.
Ricciardo's shock move was greeted with mixed feelings by the F1 community, with some praising the Aussie's risky decision and others seeing it as a step back in his career.
Regardless of the reasons behind Ricciardo's surprising choice, the 29-year-old has been warned by his new employer that fighting with the front-runners in 2019 is an unlikely prospect.
"His commitment to us proves our will to accelerate the catching-up process to the top teams," Abiteboul told Auto Motor und Sport.
"It's also a recognition of the work we have done over the past two and a half years. Daniel's talent and charisma are a big bonus for us. We have to repay that trust by providing him with the best possible car. We have to repay that trust by providing him with the best possible car."
As Renault continues to add resources and fine-tune its operations, the team expects to challenge for top honours in two years time.
"With Ricciardo, the big objective is to fight for the title in 2021, but we hope that he can start winning races in 2020," Abiteboul told France's Auto Hebdo.
"But I have also realised that these 29, 30-year-old drivers - and it's the same thing with Nico (Hulkenberg) - they not only want to drive but they aspire to something else.
"It's not the same with everyone, but I do believe it is with these two guys," he added.
Speaking of what it will take to tackle Mercedes and Ferrari at the front, Abiteboul believes the bulk of the team's improvements need to come from the chassis rather than the engine.
"The engine is good enough to put a car in pole position, win races and fight for the title. Red Bull proves it," he contended
"Without their problems, they would now be fully in the title fight. And only two of their problems had to do with the engine.
"Here we are on schedule with our catching up. I am convinced that we will catch up with Mercedes and Ferrari in 2019, maybe even overtake.
"I am satisfied with the performance increase. Not yet with reliability. On the chassis side we are still lagging aerodynamically."