"What I know is that we started from scratch, which was quite brave because we had a good product last year that was quite decent, more than decent actually," he said, when asked by Autosport about performance gains.
"I think we were quite surprised in terms of reliability. But we made a decision to start from scratch again.
"Clearly in F1 if you don't attack you are dead.
"We saw that if we were serious about our ambition to catch up with, and if not overtake, the best in class which is Mercedes, we had to envisage a completely different philosophy, which is what we have done this year.
"So the first thing to get right is reliability. That is what will have to come first.
"In terms of performance gains, we are targeting 0.3 seconds in terms of how we finished the season and how we start the season - I am just talking about engine to engine.
"Nothing related to the rest of the car. And we hope to make more or less an equivalent step over the course of the season."
Renault is already scheduling a development step that will likely come on course for the start of the European season.
However, Abiteboul insists the priority has to be reliability, because if it struggles early in the campaign that could hinder its progress later on.
"We think that between 0.3 - 0.4 seconds is what we want to achieve over the course of the season with in-season development," he said.
"But all of that will only be possible if we have the reliability, because if we don't have the reliability then it really screws your engine introduction plan.
"And then what you were supposed to bring for engine number two or engine number three will not be available because you have to fix your reliability issue."
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