Though neither Renault finished in the top ten in Budapest, Jolyon Palmer ran a strong tenth before a costly spin at Turn 4. That was enough to convince Abiteboul that a corner has been turned.
“We now go to the final race of the first part of the year with our plan back on track,” he said. “We knew that the first races would be about recovery and setting the foundations, but we had a tougher ride than expected.
“However in Budapest we demonstrated that we had taken a tangible step forward, not just in our own performance but in relative performance to our rivals. In the race we were able to out race Haas, Sauber and even Force India and Jolyon was just a sniff away from his first points.
“Now the task for Hockenheim is translating the extra pace we’ve unlocked into the points we just missed in Budapest. We’re making progress and the benefits of a strong result in the German Grand Prix would be welcomed by everyone at Enstone and Viry.
“For the rest of this season, our goal is to attack the teams ahead, using new aero parts developed since the beginning of the season and marginal evolutions of the engine to stay in the same pace as our competitors, despite our focus on 2017.”
Technical director Nick Chester explained that the team’s performance upswing in Hungary was the result of a combination of new components and a different approach to set-up.
“We learnt a lot at the Silverstone test and this is filtering through,” he said. “We’re certainly getting a better balance with the car to use the tyres more efficiently and we’re also making improvements in low-speed and medium-speed corners. The race pace showed that FP3 was not an illusion.”
Having missed the chance to score in Budapest, Palmer remains without a point in 2016. Neither he nor team mate Kevin Magnussen (who has six points this season) have been confirmed for 2017 with team principal Frederic Vasseur indicating that the team are in no rush to decide their future line-up.
“We are at that time of year when we are asked these questions [about drivers], but the questions and the speculation often happen before any decision is made,” he explained.
“What I can say is we have two good drivers, who are improving weekend after weekend. Let’s not forget that Jolyon is a rookie and that Kevin only had one year driving full-time at McLaren then a year not racing.
“They are both doing a strong, solid job and work very well within the team. I have a strong relationship with them both and they know what is expected of them. Within the team we are very happy together. We will make our decisions for 2017 in our own time.”
Renault are currently ninth in the constructors' standings with six points, their only top ten finish coming in Russia when Magnussen was seventh.