Haas Formula 1 boss Gunther Steiner fears that the advantage the top three teams enjoy over the rest of the field will not be closed this season.
During pre-season testing a clear picture emerged with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull comfortably clear of a tight midfield pack, and that has proved to be the case in the opening three races of the year.
In Australia and China the fastest car from outside those three teams was 1.8s off pole in qualifying, while in Bahrain Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was one second back.
“The midfield teams are pretty close together, but yes, there is a significant gap to the big three,” Steiner told the official F1 website.
“The big teams, especially Mercedes and Ferrari – I think Red Bull is a bit behind – are pretty much ahead of the rest.
“Will that change? I hope so, but my fear is that it will stay that way for the whole season.”
Haas was cautious with its development work in its debut season last year because of the rule changes that were coming into force for 2017, but Steiner says he expects it to be able to match the rate of new parts being produced by its rivals this year.
“I don’t know what the other teams are doing, but we have a good plan,” he said. “I think we are in the range of our midfield opponents in terms of quantity – then, of course, you have to make sure that the quality also delivers.
“We will have a substantial upgrade for Barcelona – and the next step is still in the windtunnel.
“Once we find the gains we will start producing. And of course bits and pieces we will bring at any other race.”
Steiner added that with both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen having scored points this season, the team’s next ambition is to get both cars home in the top 10 in the same race for the first time in its short history.
“Australia didn’t end well for us, so Shanghai and Bahrain were pretty sweet – very welcome results to be in the points two races in a row,” he said. “That doesn’t say that we can’t get better.
“Our internal target was to get both cars in the points, unfortunately it was not meant to be [in Bahrain] as Kevin’s car suddenly stopped for unknown reasons.
“So we will postpone that target to the next race in Russia – and from what the test [this week] suggests it looks very promising.”