Zak Brown has admitted it is “unrealistic” McLaren will be able to challenge Red Bull and Mercedes during the 2021 Formula 1 season.

McLaren enjoyed an impressive season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, finishing fourth and seventh.

Lando Norris beat Sergio Perez - who started from the pit lane - and finished over 20s clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, while the Brit finished 45s behind race winner Lewis Hamilton - a gap that encouraged McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl.

Assessing the Woking-based team’s chances for the remainder of 2021, Brown said: “I think realistically, Mercedes and Red Bull have been the class of the field here for a while. We hope to close the gap but I think it would be unrealistic to think that we would get in the mix on a regular basis – but we’re on our way and hopefully we’ll be able to join that fight in the not-to-distant future.”

Looking ahead to this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, team boss Seidl is unsure how the midfield fight will stack up.

“It will be very interesting now to see how the pecking order will look like when we go to different tracks with different characteristics, different ambient conditions, different tyre choices as well,” Seidl said. “I really think it’s far too early to say at the moment. 

“Looking at how tight the competition we were in was again here, it’s about one, or two-three tenths and you’re between P5 and P12. I think it will be a very tight competition, a great show for the fans again this year. 

“I am looking forward to it and we need to keep our heads down, stay focused, not get carried away by the first good race weekend, keep on bringing more performance in the car, make sure we stay strong on the operational side for the whole weekend and put up a great battle again.”