Alonso - No podiums for Renault

Fernando Alonso fears podium finishes will be out of Renault's reach at the start of this season, the Spaniard insisting that seventh place is the best the team can hope for.

After winning back-to-back constructors' titles in 2005 and 2006, Renault struggled last year in a season which also saw Alonso undertake his ill-fated move to McLaren-Mercedes.

With an R27 chassis whose aerodynamic performance was compromised by last season's mandatory switch to Bridgestone tyres, then drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella only managed one podium finish between them.

Renault have been working hard to resolve their issues, with some progress being made during recent pre-season testing.

However, Alonso, who returned to the team at the end of last year, says Renault will find it difficult to close the gap to BMW Sauber, nevermind Ferrari and McLaren.

"We are pretty far behind," he told AS newspaper. "We are not in a position to fight for anything important right now.

"I think it's looking like at the end of last year: two Ferraris, two McLarens and two BMWs, and if everything goes like that, you can almost only fight for seventh place.

"Thinking about the podium would be too optimistic right now, but then you arrive in the first grand prix, you start warming up in practice, your morale starts going up and you think you can be on the podium.

"But right now, thinking coldly, reaching the podium is a dream."

He added: "In our current shape it will be hard to make it into Q3."

BMW in the hunt

The Spaniard also reckons Ferrari and McLaren could face a tough challenge from BMW Sauber this season as he believes the German team have once again closed up on the frontrunners.

"Two or three weeks ago BMW were a little bit behind, we were close to them. Now they are very close to McLaren," he said.

"They (BMW) are going very fast. They have not shown their cards. They are running with the tank full and are doing very good times."