Helmut Marko believes that the 2023 F1 World Championship is already "out of reach" for Mercedes.
The Silver Arrows had a difficult start to the campaign at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton suggesting after the race that the team currently have only the "fourth best car" on the grid.
While it is still early days in the year, Red Bull advisor Marko does not expect Mercedes to bounce back quickly enough to mount a championship challenge.
"The world championship title is out of reach for Mercedes," Marko told German outlets RTL/ntv and sport.de in what he deemed to be a "realistic" assessment.
"[Mercedes' concept does not have] one problem, but several. The solution didn't come over the winter either."
Marko outlines challenge facing Mercedes
Marko thinks that adopting a different car concept during the season would be "a difficult undertaking" for Mercedes given the budget cap, despite Toto Wolff dismissing concerns over how the financial restrictions could affect their development.
"You can't design two or three cars," Marko said.
"If a completely new car comes along now, it will be difficult from the financial limits. And the new car won't be competitive from the start, you have to develop it further.
"They don't have the three days of testing and the racing experience."
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Red Bull not 2023 champions yet
After Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez claimed a dominant 1-2 victory for Red Bull in Bahrain, the likes of George Russell claimed that the squad could go on to win every race in the 2023 season.
However, Marko has played down the idea that the team have already got the championship wrapped up.
"All these euphoric voices making us the World Champion [are] completely exaggerated," the Austrian commented.
"[Bahrain is] a special track in terms of tyre wear. The race was good for us there. But that doesn't mean that the rest of the races will be the same."
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With Red Bull having cruised to a 1-2 finish in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com journalists Michael Butterworth and Dieter Rencken analyse how much we should read into their early dominance.