Force India team principal Vijay Mallya's hopes of a top three finish in the 2017 Formula 1 constructors' championship have already been dashed, reckons his deputy Bob Fernley.
After Force India took a best-yet finish of fourth in the 2016 F1 teams' standings, Mallya declared at the launch of its new VJM10 that breaking into the top three was "certainly going to be our objective" as the team "will always dream big".
But Fernley admitted pre-season testing had already suggested Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were out of reach.
"Ferrari have come out of the blocks much better than I thought," he said.
"As a result of that, I think it has also dragged Haas up a little bit from where we thought they would be.
"I think Renault have gone a good job, better than we thought they would, and McLaren are worse than we thought they would be.
"Obviously our primary aim is to retain that fourth place, so we always assumed that the top three would be unobtainable unless one of them made a mistake - and they haven't.
"So that solves that problem."
Fernley reckons the gap from Force India to the frontrunners is around 1.5 seconds at the moment, and he fears it is likely to increase as the season progresses.
"It is just the ability of those top teams to spend," he said.
"There is no way anybody else below them can match it.
"Probably McLaren would have an opportunity to do that, but without the power unit they are obviously lost."
Though Force India was relatively low key in pre-season testing, Fernley said the team was satisfied.
"The performance is where we thought it would be really," he said.
"We could do with a little bit more on the qualifying trim.
"It is not that far off and is going to be very close between the Renault, Toro Rosso and the Williams/Force India - with Williams having slight advantage at the moment.
"Race pace-wise I think it is maybe a different picture, and that is the area we are working on."