Jean Alesi doubts Mercedes will be in a position to win a Grand Prix on merit in 2022, despite steadily closing the gap to front-runners Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes endured a difficult start to F1's latest ground effect era, with their W13 suffering badly from the effects of the porpoising phenomenon early in the season.
Following plenty of set-up experiments, and with updates being rushed through, the team appear to have taken solid steps forward at recent events.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell logged back-to-back double podiums in France and Hungary, with Russell also claiming pole position last time out.
Given the team's rate of progession, Hamilton has stated that he "truly believes" Mercedes can beat Red Bull and Ferrari to a race win this year.
Can Mercedes win a Grand Prix in 2022?
But Alesi, a veteran of more than 200 Grand Prix starts who raced for the likes of Ferrari, Benetton and Sauber, thinks it will be difficult for the Silver Arrows to take that final step.
"By experience, when a car is born with problems, you're not able to fix it," the Frenchman told Give Me Sport.
"You can make a compromise, but a compromise in Formula 1 doesn't work, you know.
"I don't really believe they are able to be a winning team, winning Grands Prix, before the end of the championship under normal circumstances."
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Alesi impressed by Hamilton and Russell
Nonetheless, Alesi noted Mercedes' progress from pre-season testing – where they unveiled their unique sidepod-less design – to the final races before the summer break.
"It's easy for me to say, but everybody was shocked," he said of the outfit's early-season form.
"When they presented the car in Bahrain, everybody said, 'Oh my God, they have made something very special and they're going to be untouchable'. But lap after lap, they found out the car was nowhere.
"To see Lewis driving a car like that was sometimes embarrassing, because Lewis is a seven-time World Champion. But to see his capacity to still improve the car, that was impressive.
"In Hungary, it was fantastic to see George on pole position and Lewis fighting towards the front."
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