Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull has not been the "king team" of aerodynamics for the last few years, something he feels is demonstrated by its gap to Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017.
Many had Red Bull down as pre-season favourites before winter testing as the new regulations shifted emphasis back towards aerodynamics, something often seen as a speciality of the Milton Keynes team. However, the opening races have shown it to be a clear step behind Mercedes and Ferrari, who appear set for a tight season-long battle at the front.
Ricciardo feels Red Bull's rivals deserve credit for the job they have been doing on the aerodynamic side.
"[Red Bull technical chief] Adrian Newey has a big name for sure, but the top teams, Ferrari, Mercedes, everyone has got a good department," Ricciardo said. "I believe we still have a very good department, but they others also have very good aerodynamic departments. I think because we were already a bit behind, let's say the last few years that we have not been the king team."
Despite pre-season optimism, Ricciardo thinks people expected too much of Red Bull given how far off Mercedes the team has been since the start of the V6 turbo era in 2017.
"We've got close and obviously won a few races here to there, but when Mercedes were on the run, even Singapore a track where we were supposed to be really strong on, [Nico] Rosberg was six tenths quicker in qualifying. So they still always had that speed and so we needed to make a massive jump to get close. Six tenths is still a lot, so I think miracles...it was kind of not like expecting a miracle but it just does not happen that easily.
"Sure it does not explain why we are further away than we were last year, we expected to be closer. That is the question, but why I am not sure."
When Ricciardo joined Red Bull it had just completed its fourth consecutive sweep of the drivers' and constructors' championship, but has won just five races -- four of them with Ricciardo -- since the new engines were introduced in 2014. Ricciardo thinks the team's slow starts have become one of its biggest weaknesses since he made the step up from Toro Rosso.
"I think our ability to develop is strong, and I think that's where we were particularly good last year, but it's not a strength not starting on the front-foot, that's a weakness, and that's unfortunately since I've been with the team. It's been since 2014 we're playing catch-up in the start of the year.
"I don't think they ever dominated testing [in the early 2000s], but I think before my time in the team that was just because they were running 100 kilos when everyone else was running 20 so they knew what they had... Obviously the biggest change since then has been the V6 engines and so I'd probably put most of it down to that area, I don't think [Renault] is slacking off over Christmas, I'm not suggesting anything like that, but yeah it's unfortunately it's been the trend for the past four years now, that we're not starting in Melbourne with a chance to win."