Red Bull Special Advisor Helmut Marko says his team were not expecting to be so far off the pace in Saturday's Sprint race at Interlagos.
Max Verstappen took the lead from Kevin Magnussen at the end of Lap 3, but was passed by George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton over the course of the 24-lap race, with teammate Sergio Perez finishing one place further adrift in fifth.
Such a performance was a far cry from the dominance that has seen Red Bull win 16 of 20 races so far in 2022, and Marko lamented that his drivers had particularly suffered in Sector 2 at Interlagos.
"The difference was one second in the second sector compared to Mercedes," Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
"That's way too much. Either way, we made a mistake. Or the rest just got so much faster."
Viewed by others:
Red Bulls slower despite split strategy
With no mandatory pit-stops during the Sprint event, Verstappen was notably one of only two drivers to use Medium compound rubber at the expense of Soft tyres.
Perez, however, was on the Soft tyres, and Marko noted that even he was unable to keep pace with the pace-setting Mercedes.
"Sergio was also unable to follow Hamilton," said Marko.
"His Soft tyres also died at the end. In any case, it did not go as we had imagined."
A small consolation for Marko was the fact that Verstappen will have an extra set of Soft tyres at his disposal for the Grand Prix, allowing for a greater range of strategy options.
However, the Austrian cautioned that Red Bull would still need to find a solution to their problems in Sector 2 if they are to fight for victory on Sunday.
"We now have an extra set of Soft tyres for the Grand Prix for Max, two in total, so a two-stop strategy would now work in his favour," Marko added.
"However, we have to solve our problems in the second sector."
Video: How do F1 sprint races work?
It will be the third and final Formula 1 sprint race of the season in Brazil. We've put together a handy refresher to explain how the weekend differs slightly from the usual format.