Mercedes believes the destiny of this year's Formula 1 titles will be decided by "fine margins" and a ramping up of its pre-race preparation.
Following a thrilling season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend, the reigning champions know it has a fight on its hands to win an eighth consecutive constructors' crown, and for Lewis Hamilton to claim a record-breaking eighth drivers' title.
It is now recognised Mercedes has been hampered by the regulations for this season that have cut downforce, while it is further hamstrung by the fact it cannot upgrade its power unit.
Throw into the mix the new rules that it has less wind tunnel time than its rivals due to a sliding scale based on last season's championship results and it means the gains required to beat Red Bull are now much harder to find.
Assessing the situation, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: "The key thing is this season is different.
"Normally we would look to the wind tunnels to try to put on a bit of downforce during the course of the year and the power unit to try to find a bit of power.
"But both of those are very restricted by regulations so we have very little time in the wind tunnel, the dyno is also heavily restricted and you can’t develop the engine for performance this year.
"We’re having to look at more subtle areas to do with driveability characteristics. Also arriving at the circuit with the car well sorted, well balanced, doing your homework, knowing how long the tyres will run.
"This season, this championship is actually going to come down to the fine margins more than normal.
"I don’t see us really being able to develop to a point where we can get clear ahead. And hopefully Red Bull won’t develop to a point where they’re clear ahead."
Both teams will be relying on their star drivers to make a difference, with Hamilton edging Red Bull's Max Verstappen after a thrilling conclusion to the race in Bahrain.
A perfectly executed tyre strategy and Hamilton's racecraft over the closing laps ensured the Briton emerged with his 96th career victory.
Shovlin added: "It was a very impressive job by Lewis.
"The question was how much they [the tyres] would degrade. We figured our strategy tools were telling us that Max had a degradation difference that would be enough to overtake.
"Then as the race got into the closing stages the simulation tools were telling you that maybe he won’t but we were still looking at the battle on track thinking 'He still looks awfully quick and it’s awfully close'.
"Honestly, Lewis managed that perfectly. You can’t give the tyres too easy a time because then you don’t have enough of a gap but honestly, I don’t think he could have done a better job."
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