Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has conceded the Silver Arrows potentially lost 10 months of development time when addressing early-season porpoising issues.
F1 introduced a radical new regulation set for the current campaign to address the sport's lack of racing excitement.
Aerodynamic components were taken away from the top face of cars, replaced by ground effect to allow cars to follow closer to one another through corners.
This presented Mercedes, in particular, a challenge in overcoming the porpoising phenomenon that left the W13 bouncing aggressively down straights.
That issue played its part in Mercedes' domination in F1's hybrid era coming to an end, with Red Bull becoming the first team other than the Brackley-based outfit to register a constructors' championship win since 2014.
The Silver Arrows' monopoly came from a stunning start on the power unit that left it with a lasting advantage over the years and with Red Bull commanding both titles this year, Wolff was asked if a similar headstart had been achieved.
“It’s certainly an advantage," said Wolff.
"But we believe that we understand where the gap comes from.
"They will carry over some of their sweetness in the car and we have maybe lost maybe eight to 10 months in terms of development because we couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
“So it is definitely a challenge and we are playing the long game here, all of us.
“Both drivers are playing the long game, the team – what I judge about the team’s performance is not based on a single year or weekend, but how we have been able to win championships over the long-term.”