No catching Mercedes until second half of season - Button
Jenson Button has played down the size of Mercedes' advantage but also believes it would be "very impressive" if any team was able to catch them before the midway point in 2014.
Mercedes' advantage was magnified in Bahrain as both its drivers stormed away after the safety car period, with Lewis Hamilton 24 seconds ahead of third-placed Sergio Perez by the time the chequered flag fell, suggesting the team could be around two-and-a-half seconds quicker. But with Perez holding the pack up Button feels a fairer evaluation of Mercedes' advantage would be around the one-second mark.
"Yes [Mercedes was far ahead], but you've also got to look that the Force India was not quick," Button said. "I think if you had a Red Bull in third position they wouldn't have pulled away at the margin they did. They are extremely quick but sometimes you can have margins like that, it doesn't mean they are two-seconds-a-lap quicker than us.
"We've had it with Red Bull in the past; Sebastian in Singapore was two-and-a-half seconds quicker than anyone. It sometimes works like that, maybe they've got enough downforce in terms of tyres while other teams don't, so I don't think that was quite correct. But they have a one-second advantage I would say."
Until a clutch problem forced him to retire early Button looked like he could challenge for the third spot on the podium but he is not getting carried away with McLaren's pace.
"We were surprised to be where we were", Button said. "We weren't the quickest; I don't think anyone for a long time is going to get near the Mercedes.
Button also believes those who are talking about the pack catching Mercedes are forgetting the fact the current front-runners are not going to give up its advantage easily.
"We are bringing updates all the time, some bigger than others, but for any team to find a second is a big ask over the next couple of races. And that's with Mercedes standing still, and they are not going to do that. It's going to be tough and we have to be realistic about it.
"Some people might over-deliver, we might over-deliver and we might see in two or three races that we are able to fight them but I think it would be very impressive for any team to achieve that."