Mercedes feel as though they are taking "one step forward and two steps back" as the team look to get a handle on their 2022 car, according to George Russell.
Russell struggled during Saturday's qualifying session in Bahrain, ending up way down the order in ninth, while teammate Lewis Hamilton placed fifth.
Ferrari appear to have built the field's fastest car heading into the new season, qualifying first and third, but Red Bull are in hot pursuit, with Max Verstappen managing to get his RB18 on the front row for Sunday's race.
For Mercedes, it has been a tough start to F1's new era, with testing setbacks meaning they have problems to solve before they can compete for wins, as per Hamilton, Russell and team boss Toto Wolff.
Why Russell was so far behind Hamilton
Russell's disappointing qualifying performance means he will start behind Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas, amongst others, on Sunday – the man he has replaced at Mercedes this season.
"In Q2, I was pretty happy, to be honest, [and] the car felt good," Russell told Sky Sports F1, when asked to explain what went wrong.
"I just tried something different [on the last lap in Q3]. We only had one set of tyres and I really pushed on my out lap. I got to Turn 1 and I just had no grip.
"I went one second slower than I did in Q2 and I was expecting to go a couple of tenths faster. That was a real shame, but I'm glad I tried something.
"Obviously, P9 is much lower down than where the car is, but we're doing everything we can to try and get the car back to the front."
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Mercedes are taking "one step forward and two steps back"
As Mercedes attempt to work through their issues, Russell added: "I feel like we were going one step forward and two steps back.
"We feel like we're making progress, but then suddenly we're back into the same issues that we faced.
"It's difficult, because we're so focused on solving the over-arching issue of the car that it's difficult to nail down on the details and fine-tune the thing.
"We know we want to be fighting for victories and we need to try everything we can to get there."
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