As F1's fierce midfield battle enters its final stretch, Renault is confident of retaining its status of 'best of the rest' but Cyril Abiteboul is calling for better single-lap pace for its R.S.18.
The French team only has an 8-point cushion over rival Haas in the Constructor's standings, with the two teams moving in opposite directions lately with Renault's performance level diminishing while the US outfit's speed is increasing.
For Abiteboul, Renault's pace in qualifying is the culprit of the team's weakness relative to Haas.
"Fourth position is going to be close as we reach the final straight of the season, but we’re feeling positive ahead of the next race in the United States," said the Frenchman ahead of next week's US Grand Prix.
"Our race pace is clearly competitive in relation to the midfield teams, but we absolutely need to improve single-lap, qualifying pace.
"There is very little difference between P7 and P16 right now and we need to ensure we are in the best possible position on the grid on race day. This is where points are won and lost."
Performance gains are marginal at this stage of the season, with development and updates winding down as everyone steers the bulk of their resources towards 2019.
"We are reaching the end of our development cycle this season since we are increasingly focused on 2019 projects, but our immediate priority remains meeting our objectives set at the start of 2018.
"To do this, we need to see the final four races as a mini-championship. Austin is the next challenge and we go there in a determined mood with a point to prove."
Renault chassis technical director Nick Chester underlines the qualities required to perform at Austin's challenging Circuit of the Americas.
"You need good aerodynamic efficiency, good downforce without too much drag, power and a predictable and stable set-up on the car," explained the British engineer.
"There’s nothing special in terms of set-up, but there are a real mix of corners to get through. Sector three should be good for us and we’ll be aiming to extract the most from the car from the fast sector one."
Despite the ongoing battle in the midfield, Chester insists the close competition won't change Renault's approach to the race weekend.
"It’s clearly very close in the midfield, but it doesn’t change what we do in our preparation or what we do at the track because we expect to score points at every race weekend," he says.
"Of course, there’s a lot at stake in this case but for us it’s an added focus to make sure we get everything out of the car. It’s game on."