Mr Sunak was speaking at a Tory leadership contest hustings in Eastbourne a day after the Bank of England forecast inflation will peak at 13.3 per cent and the cost of living crisis will stretch into the expected election year of 2024.
The former chancellor has repeatedly warned that his leadership rival Liz Truss’s plan for at least £30bn of immediate tax cuts will fuel inflation and risk extending the crisis.
He told Conservative activists on Friday that the most important thing was not to “put fuel on the fire and make the situation worse”.
“The first thing we need to do in order to make sure we can win that election is have got through this inflation problem by then,” said Mr Sunak. “And that’s why I’m particularly worried about policies that risk making it worse and last longer.
“Because this is a problem that isn’t just for this winter. It’s a problem for next winter as well, and beyond, because as the Bank of England said they are worried about inflation becoming embedded.
“Then there’s no hope that we’re going to win that next election. Absolutely none. Right? It’s as simple as that.
“We all heard what they said yesterday, all of you saw the numbers.
“And if we don’t get a grip of this thing and get a grip of it fast, then we can kiss goodbye to winning that next election. So the first thing to put ourselves in a position to win is to get through inflation and get through it quickly and not do things worse.”
Mr Sunak said that conquering inflation was “the most important question that confronts our country at the moment”.
He added: “The warning lights in our economy are flashing red. And the root cause of that is inflation. And yes, it’s primarily driven by international causes, but not exclusively, and increasingly is becoming domestic.
“So the first thing we need to do, if we’re going to grip this, is not make the situation worse and put fuel on the fire and repeat the mistakes of the past.
“And as you heard from Nigel Lawson –- Margaret Thatcher’s chancellor – just the other day, I believe that pumping £40 or £50bn of borrowed money into an economy that’s already seeing an inflation spiral is enormously risky.
“It is taking a big gamble with your savings, your pensions and your mortgage rates and that is not a gamble that I’m prepared to take.”
Five environmental protesters joined an action by the group Green New Deal Rising at the event, rising one by one from the audience to say loudly to the would-be prime minister: “Liz Truss, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
A live stream of the hustings on the Conservative Party website was briefly halted as the protesters were removed from the hall.
As the audience chanted “Out! Out!”, the foreign secretary halted her speech, saying: “I think we have some infiltrators and I will wait until they are evicted.”
When she resumed her speech, Ms Truss won applause from Tory activists by announcing that as PM she would “never, ever, ever allow our democracy to be disrupted by unfair protests”.