After making so many steps in the right direction across the last couple of months, the Mercedes F1 Team may have gone all the way back to square one, after qualifying almost two seconds off the leading time.
Toto Wolff slammed the team’s Saturday performance as “unacceptable”, with Sir Lewis Hamilton ending Q3 1.8 seconds off Max Verstappen’s fastest time, and George Russell 2.1 seconds off the reigning World Champion.
In Mercedes’ defence, Verstappen was in a league of his own on Saturday, after being sixth tenths faster than second fastest Carlos Sainz.
Nevertheless, it still meant Mercedes were over a second slower than the top Ferrari, the side they are currently battling for second in the Constructors’ Championship.
A number of grid penalties does actually mean both Mercedes start in the top five, with Hamilton lining-up fourth with Russell in fifth.
Either driver making it onto the podium would be a miracle, especially as Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will most likely fight their way to the front after starting at the back due to grid penalties.
Russell blamed the W13’s inability to get the tyres in the “right window” as the “overriding factor” as to why the Silver Arrows are so far off the pace.
“They are the overriding factor,” Russell said.
“If you get the tyres in the right window, or the wrong window, it could be a second a lap difference… I think it is an inherent limitation in the car.”
Russell claimed pole position for Mercedes in the previous round of the championship, with many expecting Mercedes to be right in the mix for pole this weekend.
They simply couldn’t be any further from it, with team principal Toto Wolff absolutely furious with how shocking the W13 is performing.
The Austrian incredibly deemed Saturday the “worst” he’s experienced in the 10 years he’s spent as Mercedes’ boss, labelling it as “just not acceptable”.
“You can’t be on pole three weeks before – albeit for very different conditions, different track – and then be 1.8 seconds off the pace, at the next one,” Wolff told reporters.
“There’s something which we totally don’t understand, or seem to get right. Clearly, Red Bull is here in a league of their own.
“What is the next Ferrari – eight or nine tenths off? So, I don’t know what that is, but that is no consolation.
“For me, it’s the worst qualifying session that I have had in 10 years. Irrespective of what positions we are going to start tomorrow, just even being on pole at one weekend and then three weeks later being nowhere is just not acceptable for ourselves.”
The problem appears to be in more than one area for the team, with Hamilton having complained of the car feeling like it’s “dragging a parachute”.
The biggest issue of them all, though, is that once again Mercedes simply don’t understand what is causing all the problems, with Wolff admitting it’s time to “consolidate and decide” on their next step.
“If we could understand it, we could tune it,” Wolff added.
“But the car is draggy in a straight line – Lewis said it’s like a dragging a parachute behind him.
“And it is unstable on the rear. It under-steers, it bounces through the high speed and it gives no confidence. There is not one positive that I heard about how the car performs here this weekend and throughout the weekend.
“So, I think now it’s time to consolidate and decide what we do next.”