Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko reckons it could be midway through the 2017 Formula One season before his team can take the fight to Mercedes.
With new aerodynamic regulations being introduced ahead of this season, Red Bull has been tipped as the favourites to overhaul Mercedes' recent dominance of the sport and challenge for this year's title. The Milton Keynes-based outfit has most notably lagged behind Mercedes in engine power, although Renault made significant progress with its power unit over the course of last year.
Red Bull's hopes have been boosted further over the winter with Renault confident that it has extracted even more potential from its 2017 power unit, however, Marko insists Mercedes remain the firm favourites.
"Of course Mercedes is still the favourite," Marko told Sky Sports. "For sure they have the fastest engine, they have the best drivability. Renault is catching up. How much? We will see when we come to Melbourne but we are positive that we could come very near to them mid-season or so. The Ferrari looks strong. But I think it should be a fight between Mercedes, Ferrari and us. How close we are and the rest? We will see during the season."
Marko is a fan of the new wider, more aggressive looking 2017 F1 cars but says he is skeptical over whether the new regulations will succeed in improving the show with regards to overtaking.
"First of all the car looks much better, more aggressive, more sexy. What I have seen in the fast corners, the cornering speed is amazing so I'm sure we will see much faster lap times. Overtaking I'm not so sure, they are braking so late it will be difficult. Let's see when people are running with the same amount of weight and with full horsepower. I think it could be an interesting season."