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Mercedes set deadline before accepting defeat to Ferrari and Red Bull

Mercedes were mired in the midfield for most of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend while Red Bull and Ferrari fought for pole position and victory.

Mercedes have given themselves two more races to make a tangible step forward if they are to keep Ferrari and Red Bull "within any kind of reach" this season. Mercedes are now almost 50 points adrift of Ferrari in the championship standings after a damaging weekend at Imola, which saw both drivers knocked out in the Q2 qualifying phase and Lewis Hamilton fail to score. Hamilton ultimately crossed the line in 13th position, a lap down on race winner Max Verstappen, with George Russell salvaging fourth, despite claiming that the W13 "doesn't really feel like a proper racing car" .

Russell rescues some points for Mercedes

Reflecting on Mercedes' difficult weekend, Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin made a point of praising Russell's performance, which prevented the team from leaving empty-handed. "A great drive by George saw us salvage some useful points for fourth place from what has otherwise been a thoroughly disappointing weekend," he said. "He made a really good start and managed the transition to dry very well. We had an issue with the front wing adjusters at the pit-stop and he ended up driving the dry stint with the wet aero balance. "It was an impressive effort to keep Valtteri [Bottas] behind, but the understeer prevented him from being able to close down the gap to Lando [Norris], so he had to settle for fourth."

Hamilton's tough weekend "through no fault of his own"

As for Hamilton, he spent most of his race stuck behind the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly after a close call with Alpine's Esteban Ocon in the pit lane. "Lewis has had a tough weekend from start to finish through no fault of his own," added Shovlin. "The start was OK and he'd moved up to 11th after Daniel [Ricciardo] and Carlos [Sainz] tangled, but we got undercut on the transition by a couple of cars, lost a bit of time with a slow stop and then to Esteban [Ocon] who was released into Lewis' path as they left the pits. "The next 44 laps were very frustrating as he was stuck in a DRS train and it was impossible to get through."

Shovlin says "time is getting critical" for Mercedes

Shovlin admits Mercedes need to make some form of progress over the next two race weekends in Miami and Barcelona if they want to stop Ferrari and Red Bull from running away up front. "We know where we are on performance right now and we know where we need to get to," he said. "However, there are a couple of major issues with the car that if we can fix, we can find a lot of that gap quite quickly, but time is getting critical now. "We need to move forward in the next two races if we are to keep the leaders within any kind of reach this year."

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