Renault has opened talks with Carlos Sainz about a long-term contract at the team, despite the on-loan Red Bull driver having an unclear future.
The Spaniard has been loaned to the Enstone team and can be called back for 2019 if Red Bull loses Daniel Ricciardo – who has an uncertain future of his own – to a rival outfit.
Ricciardo is unlikely to shore up his future with the Austrian drinks team until the summer, putting Renault bosses in an awkward position because they are not totally in control of their line-up.
Despite the uncertainty, Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said a long-term plan is being discussed with Sainz, who only has 13 points so far this season and has been out performed by team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
He told Motorsport.com: “We have two great drivers, but obviously we have a particular situation with Carlos, which is a contract where we are exposed for next year, and we knew that since day one.
“We need to start thinking way in advance about what could be the situation. That is why we have already started discussions with Carlos about [the] longer term.
“[It is] not a super comfortable situation to be in, but we need to accept that we are still playing catch up on many areas [compared to the top teams] and one of the areas is driver market.”
Back on the race track and Renault hope to benefit in Sunday’s Spanish GP from engine upgrades.
The Barcelona circuit is the home race for Sainz, who is raring to go.
He said: “It’s the most special GP of the year for me and it feels so different to any other race.
“Wherever I go throughout the weekend, there’s always people cheering, it’s a real privilege to experience.”
Meanwhile, Renault junior Jack Aitken will make his debut in a contemporary Formula 1 car when he drives for the outfit in the post-Spanish Grand Prix test at Barcelona.
Aitken is a member of the Renault Sport Academy and was promoted to the role of reserve driver for the team at the start of this year.