Renault boss Flavio Briatore insists his team has not given up hope of getting itself back in the hunt for the world title, despite its shaky start to the season.
Former World Champion Fernando Alonso said at the weekend that his team needed to up its game if it was to make the R29 a race winner – having failed to shine in the first two races of the campaign. And Briatore has issued a rallying call – believing that his team's form has more to do with the diffuser controversy overshadowing the sport rather than his team not producing a good car.
"Like everybody else, excluding three teams, everybody is having a tough time," Briatore told AUTOSPORT. "Malaysia was tough as well, especially with the weather, and our downforce is very poor. And this is very clear.
"But we do not give up, absolutely. We have the hearing [of the FIA's Court of Appeal] on April 14 and we need to see what happens as well.
"This weekend it was so clear what happened. It is not normal. At this moment, Kazuki Nakajima is a fantastic driver, but these people did not make such a big improvement from last year.
"In Malaysia it was very clear what the diffuser has done, and I think [Jenson] Button in qualifying was one second clear. It is very clear there is a lot of downforce and a lot of ground effect."
Briatore's belief that F1's 'diffuser gang' of Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams are in a different league has been backed by BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen.
Nick Heidfeld's second place in Malaysia was the first time a car that did not feature a double diffuser had been on the podium this season.
When asked by AUTOSPORT if he said that that result would increase efforts ahead of the April 14 hearing, Theissen said: "You cannot take the race result for that, but you have to look at qualifying.
"If you take out Sebastian Vettel, who was on a very low fuel load, or if you adjust the fuel load of Sebastian and Robert, they were almost equal and the two best standard diffuser cars. That definitely tells you that it has to be sorted out."