Formula 1 chief Ross Brawn says “it looks highly unlikely” that any of the midfield teams will be able to challenge for a podium position due to the ongoing performance difference between the top three teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull compared to the rest.

The F1 managing director for motorsport has underlined his concerns between the pace gap on the 2018 grid having seen effectively two individual races run at the Chinese Grand Prix between the top three teams and the rest of the field.

While Brawn has relished seeing the competitive fight at the front, the ex-Ferrari and Mercedes boss accepts the difference to the rest of the F1 grid is too large with all three teams able to pull out a time buffer worth a full pit stop before being caught by its midfield rivals during the opening laps of the Chinese race.

“As was the case in Bahrain, and again in China, the gap between the first three and the rest of the pack was far too big,” Brawn said. “On lap 16, prior to the run of pit stops the gap from leader Vettel to seventh-placed Kevin Magnussen was over 35 seconds, with the Dane already trailing Ricciardo, the next man in front, by 20 seconds.

“The safety car mixed things up, but not enough to see a driver from the second group join the fight for podium places.”

Last year F1 witnessed just one podium finish from outside of the top three teams, Lance Stroll’s dramatic third place for Williams at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but Brawn fears the 2018 season could see all of the midfield teams miss out on the rostrum.

“In less than two weeks, we'll be racing in Baku, which last year saw the only podium appearance of a driver from outside the top three teams: Williams' Lance Stroll,” he said. “Could the return to this very different street circuit throw up a result outside of the top three teams? On current form it looks highly unlikely.”

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