Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul has ruled out doing "crazy things" to try to tempt Fernando Alonso back next year.
Alonso won both of his Formula One titles during his first spell at Renault before his initial switch to McLaren a decade ago.
The Spaniard has endured a miserable start to the season with struggling McLaren and his contract expires this year.
But Abiteboul said Renault are unlikely to be in a position to provide the 35-year-old with a car capable of challenging in 2018.
"I am not here to pull off a one-off coup with someone, I am not living in the past," he told Autosport.
"I started working in F1 when Flavio [Briatore] and Fernando were in this group together at Enstone, so I am emotionally touched by this period.
"But equally circumstances have changed, we need also to have a final line-up that will be the right one for the future. I don't think next year we will be in a position to fight for the championship.
"So we need a driver who can support us in this ultimate fight for the championship, but be prepared to wait for the time to come for this to happen."
Abiteboul knows Renault will have to be realistic when they consider which drivers they want to fill their seats next year.
He added: "There is not a driver who will move you from 'group two' to 'group one', that is for sure.
"I think we are moving towards a driver formula rather than a team-car formula. If you look at our development, hopefully we will be in a position to be part of the top teams in two years' time.
"Then the regulations will have stabilised and everyone will have sort of converged. And by that point it will be crucial, it will be paramount, to have a driver who is capable of making that sort of last contribution to be the best.
"But we don't intend to do crazy things because we know our situation and we need to project ourselves in time."