Former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi has cast doubt over Mercedes' ability to score a race win to extend Lewis Hamilton's record victory streak this season.
Mercedes endured a torrid start to the season with its W13 considerably off the pace of frontrunners Ferrari and Red Bull.
But as the season has progressed, the Silver Arrows have closed the gap. In France and Hungary, in particular, both Hamilton and George Russell featured alongside Max Verstappen on the podium.
It was the team's sixth consecutive top-three appearance, matching Ferrari with 11 drivers' trophies for the year to date.
But speaking to Give Me Sport, Alesi revealed his doubt that Mercedes can make the final step to the top of the order and continue Hamilton's remarkable win-a-season run going.
“By experience, when a car is born with problems, you’re not able to fix it,” said Alesi, who made 201 career F1 starts, and drove for Ferrari from 1991-95.
“You can make a compromise, but a compromise in Formula 1 doesn’t work.
“I don’t really believe they are able to be a winning team, winning grands prix, before the end of the championship under normal circumstances.”
Alesi "shocked" by Mercedes struggles
Mercedes entered the year off the back of eight consecutive constructors' titles and with wins in every season since 2012.
Assessing what the team is currently going through at present, Alesi added: “It’s easy for me to say, but everybody was shocked [by Mercedes' early struggles].
“When they presented the car in Bahrain, everybody said, ‘Oh my God! They have made something very special and they’re going to be untouchable’.
"But lap after lap, they found out the car was nowhere.
“To see Lewis driving a car like that was sometimes embarrassing because Lewis is a seven-time world champion. But to see his capacity to still improve the car, that was impressive.
“In Hungary, it was fantastic to see George on pole position and Lewis fighting towards the front.”