Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull and Max Verstappen are in a league of their own in terms of sheer performance and "almost unbeatable" on race day.
At Monza on Sunday, Verstappen added an eleventh win to his season's tally, the Dutchman also finishing for the first time on the podium of the Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen's most recent achievement puts his second consecutive title in sight, with a potential coronation coming as soon as Singapore in two weeks.
Hamilton was among the many drivers that were hit with grid drops in Italy due to engine-related penalties, the Mercedes drivers starting his race from P19 on the last row of the grid.
Hamilton enjoyed a clean start but had to wait six laps before moving up the order. When allow as said and done, the seven-time world champion had clocked in fifth, two spots behind teammate George Russell.
"I had a lot of fun working my way to P5," he commented after the race.
"The beginning was a struggle, with a heavy fuel load and the tyres overheating in traffic, but then we started to make progress as the race unfolded - and I had some fun after the stops working through the traffic.
"This wasn't our best track but we did everything we could as a team, and I hope we have some stronger weekends ahead before the end of the season."
In the wake of Mercedes' undeniable progress over the summer, Hamilton suggested that a race win was on the cards for the Brackley squad.
But the Briton isn't so sure anymore that Mercedes will be able to break the deadlock that Red Bull and Verstappen have put in place.
"We have to be realistic, that Red Bull is almost unbeatable," he acknowledged.
"It’s going to take some real doing to beat that car. Performance-wise, they are fully ahead of everyone."
Although Mercedes has worked tirelessly to develop and improve its W13 silver arrow, changes on the car will be few and in between in the back half of the season, meaning that Mercedes will need to rely on luck to outplay the insatiable Red Bull/Verstappen duo.
"We have not caught them, we don’t have upgrades coming to overtake them so it’s going to take some fortune going our way," he added.
"It’s not impossible because we could have beaten them maybe in Budapest. But he’s [Verstappen] generally chilled at the front so you never know their true pace. We’ll see."