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Nico Hulkenberg says that the Renault F1 team is still two or three years away from being title contenders ahead of the launch of their 2018 F1 challenger.

In Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. — the Spaniard on loan from Red Bull — Renault has arguably the strongest driver combination outside of the top three teams and, with the French manufacturer entering its third season since returning as a constructor in 2016. Renault hopes to be a contender for regular podium finishes.

Unlike most people however, Hulkenberg isn’t being drawn into the preseason hype and insists that success on that scale is still several years down the line.

“It is a very time-consuming thing to get a team to the level that Red Bull and Mercedes are,” said Hulkenberg, speaking to Motorsport.com. “The investment they make now in building and modernising the factory, the benefit we will get only in two-three years’ time — not until everything is up and running and we understand it.

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“There is always such a long lead-up time. They have all been through the same. Look at Mercedes, how many years they were OK but not where they are now. Red Bull, the same. It takes a couple of years to get on top of these things because this is such a complicated sport and then the rules keep changing so constantly the game is changing. You need to adapt all the time and you need new people with new ideas, and more people.”

Despite a less than impressive start to 2017, a major upgrade package at the British Grand Prix transformed Renault’s fortunes — a shift which saw them regularly begin to finish inside the top 10 and led them to sixth in the constructors’ standings.

“The Silverstone upgrade was the game-changer during our season,” Hulkenberg continued. “It really made us up from not really being points material, to being a regular points contender. We were top-10 material in the second half.

“But on the not so sunny side, there were a lot of missed opportunities due to many problems that we had and faced but related back to where the team was coming from. We need to get on top of these things. I would rather have it now and come with a much more competitive overall better package for 2018 and the year beyond and smash it properly it then, than have these things in intervals.”

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