Toto Wolff has conceded Mercedes faces such a sizeable task in trying to beat Red Bull next season that it will be akin to climbing Mount Everest.
Many climbers have achieved the feat over the years, of course, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Mercedes could overhaul the most dominant car-driver combination in F1 history in 2024, but it paints a picture going into next season.
Unsurprisingly, there is every concern amongst Red Bull's rivals now that it and Verstappen will continue to crush them over the next two seasons of the current regulations before new engine rules hopefully prove a game-changer in 2026.
“You've got to have a lot of respect for their achievements on the engineering side, and the driver,” said Wolff, acknowledging the feat of Red Bull and Verstappen that has taken a step beyond Mercedes' own dominance from 2014-2021.
“And beating them under the current regulations is against the odds, that's clear.
“But at the same time, we've seen with McLaren where an update unlocked a second of lap time, AlphaTauri coming strong at the end, and Aston Martin over the winter that there is a key to unlock dramatically more performance.
“Assessing it in an honest way that this car's never going to be good enough to fight for the championship we took the decision in the spring that we would go back to the drawing board and come up with something new next year.
“We must leave no stone unturned, which we do in Brixworth and Brackley, but Mount Everest is in front of us.
“And as tough as it is to be reminded that it's just P2, it's also a great, great opportunity to come back and strive for the stars.”
That was with reference to the fact Mercedes finished second in the constructors' championship, a staggering 441 points adrift of Red Bull, but crucially pipping Ferrari by three.
Going into the race needing to outscore Mercedes by four points to clinch second themselves, Leclerc cleverly allowed by Red Bull's Sergio Perez late in the race after the Mexican had overtaken George Russell to relegate the Briton to fourth.
Leclerc knew that if Perez could open up a five-second gap to Russell, negating an in-race penalty for causing a collision with McLaren's Lando Norris, then Ferrari would claim second in the constructors'.
Perez missed out by just over a second.
Leclerc could still have aided Ferrari's cause by backing up Russell on the final lap, but on sporting grounds, the Monégasque opted to race clean.
The result earns Mercedes US$10million more in prize money, although given the sliding scale of wind tunnel and CFD testing allowed under the current regulations, Ferrari will enjoy a greater allowance of time by seven percent.
Acknowledging Leclerc's sportsmanship, Wolff said: “At the end, he could have pulled the handbrake on in the last sector, and he didn't. I think that shows the character of the driver.”