Damon Hill is adamant that Lewis Hamilton remains in the F1 title fight, despite placing third and 10th during the opening two rounds of the 2022 season.
Mercedes finished 30 seconds behind race-winners Red Bull at the Saudi Arabian GP with Hamilton's teammate, George Russell, admitting that his estimations were that the Brackley-based outfit need to find close to one second per lap on their rivals.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is leading the World Championship after two races (45 pts), with Carlos Sainz (33 pts) and Max Verstappen (25 pts) in hot pursuit.
But the Mercedes drivers are already falling behind, with Russell and Hamilton now 23 points and 29 points behind, respectively.
Hamilton still in title fight, says Hill
However, 1996 World Champion Hill has warned against ruling Hamilton out of the title race just yet, with 21 races to go between now and November's season finale.
Hill knows all about fighting back from behind in the race for the sport's biggest prize: the British driver found himself 29 points adrift of Michael Schumacher during the 1994 season before a run of four wins from five races left him just one point down heading into the final race weekend.
"I don't see why not," said Hill, speaking the Sky Sports F1 ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, when discussing whether Hamilton is still in the title fight.
"I think he is a long shot. The betting odds, apparently, are quite long, so it might be worth a tipple on Lewis.
"This is going to be a long old battle. We will not remember the first few races of this season by the time we get to halfway through. It is going to be a slog, 23 Grands Prix."
The fight at the front could keep Mercedes close
Mercedes have made clear that there will be no "magic fix" for their car this weekend, warning of yet more lost ground on their rivals.
The team will fear that taking too long to cure their problems could leave them with too steep a mountain to climb between now and the end of the season, as they fight to transform their car into a title challenger.
But Hill believes that Ferrari and Red Bull are currently doing Mercedes a major favour by trading places at the front and limiting each other's progress.
"If you've got a battle going on at the front and if you haven't got a dominant team, then it is unlikely that they will get that far ahead," he added.
"It is highly likely that Mercedes could get in the mix."
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Hill: Russell is doing a fine job
But it isn't all about Hamilton when it comes to the prospect of Mercedes joining the title fight, adds Hill.
He reckons Russell too holds F1 title aspirations and will be "in the mix" should the Silver Arrows find the silver bullet for their problems.
The 24-year-old has picked up 22 points from his opening two races at the factory team.
Hill said: "He [Russell] is doing a fine job and might even take points away from the other guys as well."
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Mike Seymour, and Thomas Maher look back over the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah, which was won in dramatic fashion by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.