Bruno Senna says he still feels he is far from fully up to speed despite his promising pace in his first three appearances with Lotus Renault GP.
Since being called up to replace Nick Heidfeld at Spa, Senna has twice outqualified his teammate Vitaly Petrov and came through the field after a first-corner delay to finish ninth at Monza, despite having had little track time since leaving HRT at the end of the previous season.
But, asked whether he felt he was now on a more even keel with the other drivers, Senna replied: "Not yet. Undoubtedly they still have the upper hand because they have completed more races than me. So far, I've driven at three very different circuits so far in very different conditions, and Suzuka will be another of the traditional races where I have limited experience.
"I'm learning and catching up with the other drivers on the grid, but they have a considerable amount more experience than I do, and greater knowledge about the tires, too."
Renault had a terrible Singapore Grand Prix, with the car's inherent discomfort on slow corners leaving both Senna and Petrov in the midfield all weekend. The team – Senna included – is adamant that Suzuka next weekend will bring better form.
"Yes, I'm convinced that will be the case," he said. "The low-speed nature of Singapore made it the worst circuit for us in terms of performance. That hurt us a little bit, but with the updates we have planned for Suzuka we should be strong there, and hopefully will be able to get both cars in the points again – that's where we belong."
Senna added that while Renault expected to be faster at the remaining races, realistically it had to be looking at protecting its 22-point cushion over the improving Force India in the constructors' championship more than closing the 44-point gap to Mercedes in fourth.
"If we can still add to the car a little bit here and there, that will help," he said. "We need to stay ahead of the teams behind us, in particular Force India.
"If we can close the gap to Mercedes GP in fourth, that would be a real boost for the team, but primarily we must hold on to fifth position and keep the opposition at bay."