Renault's Carlos Sainz admits that the team is on the back foot after the opening day of running in Japan. After the second practice session, both cars failed to get inside the top ten as it aims to hold on to fourth in the constructor's standings until the end of the year.
Renault currently sits 11 points ahead of Haas, who is catching the Enstone squad. At Suzuka on Friday, Nico Hulkenberg and Sainz were twelfth and fourteenth respectively, while Romain Grosjean placed his Haas inside the top ten.
Sainz knows it will be tough to hold onto the 'best of the rest' position in the standings as Renault is lacking pace to its competitors: "It will depend on the next couple of races. I think at the moment we are definitely on the back foot compared to them.
"They have definitely done bigger steps than we have done. So we are having to work a bit harder on Fridays, come up with alternative strategies for Sunday like in Sochi," the Spaniard continued.
"We’re working hard around it but at the moment we first need to analyse what happened in FP2 to lose so much performance. We changed the floor, we changed quite a lot of things on the car so we just need to see where all that performance went."
Sainz is entering his last handful races for Renault as he will make the switch to McLaren for the 2019 season. He failed to score points in Russia last time out, losing performance after making contact with Sergey Sirotkin on the opening lap.