Fernando Alonso says Renault must find bigger performance gains in order to fight closer to the front, despite the Spaniard conceding the French team is now closer to the leading outfits.
The two-time champion believes his team has closed the gaps to teams like Brawn or Red Bull, but he is aware that Ferrari or BMW have taken bigger steps, making his life more difficult.
"I think (we are) a little bit closer to the leaders because the gap we had in Q1 and Q2 maybe is a little bit less than what we saw in the first four races," Alonso told reporters after qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.
"So definitely we are closer to the leaders, but teams like Ferrari, like BMW they are also closer so maybe they are in front of us now so the positions remain more or less the same or even a little bit worse for us.
"We qualified seventh in the last Q2 in Bahrain and in China as well, and today we were P10 in Q2, even if the gap was smaller than in the last two races.
"We are better. We are happy with our car, but the problems is that in half a second instead of having seven cars now there are 11 or 12 cars, so it's really difficult."
He added: "I think we need to find better steps. I think if you bring half a tenth or one tenth every race, the positions will remain the same. If one team suddenly gains three or four tenths in one race that will obviously close the gap to the leaders but it will put you eight positions better than now.
"With the times so close you can dramatically change your race or your qualifying. That is the kind of step we need to find from one race to another, and this is obviously difficult for everybody."
Despite Renault's situation, Alonso reckons the situation is still better than last year.
"Last year I was not optimistic at all because the gap to the front-runners was maybe 1.5 seconds," he said. "I knew this time last year that the championship was over and that it was a season to learn and to take it easy and prepare well for 2009.
"Now we are half a second or whatever behind the leaders, it's not huge, so we will keep pushing."