Gene Haas says his team is effectively racing in 'Formula 1.5', such is the current performance advantage of Formula 1’s leading three outfits.

The America squad is embroiled in a close tussle with Renault over fourth place in the constructors’ championship as it bids to come out on top in the midfield battle to earn the ‘best of the rest’ tag behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Haas believes beating Renault in just his team’s third season competing in the sport would be the equivalent of winning a championship title, given he feels there is little chance of ever challenging the big three.

"I feel we are not really racing F1, we are racing F1.5," the Haas team owner said at the United States Grand Prix. "So if we were to finish fourth that would be a win in our series.

“When I watch some of the races and see how fast the top three teams just blow by on the race track, you are just somewhat aghast and like 'wow, how did we miss that?'.

"I don't know how those cars are so much faster. But if I talked to Ayao [Komatsu, engineer], he says you have got a couple of tenths on your tyres, you have got a couple of tenths on your aero and your chassis is off a couple of tenths. That is your second or two.

"I know that we put a huge effort into trying to address all those parameters, but I don't see how we are ever going to make up 1.5-2 seconds off these guys. They are just so much faster: it is evident right?"

Haas is just eight points adrift of the French manufacturer in the 2018 standings but there is a huge gap of 235 points standing between the US team and Red Bull in third place. 

It is hoped a planned budget cap for 2021 will help smaller outfits close the gap by reducing the money available to the leading teams, though Haas doubts it will prove enough to completely level the playing field.

"Will [a] budget cap help? Probably," he explained. "If it reduces the size of their R&D department, I guess for every person we have, they have five people.

"Personally I think that those five people would make it more confusing, but it does seem to work. And if there is anything that can reduce that gap, the technology they have and what we don't have, that would probably be very helpful.

"How you go about doing that without the bigger teams somehow having workarounds I don't know, but there is something wrong. I don't think we can ever make up that gap."