George Russell believes the fact that Mercedes were able to challenge Ferrari on race day at the Belgian Grand Prix is the only positive from an otherwise challenging weekend.
The eight-time Constructors' World Champions struggled all weekend at Spa-Francorchamps with tyre warm-up, a lack of grip and poor straight-line speed, meaning Russell and Lewis Hamilton were only seventh and eighth in qualifying.
Although they started fourth and fifth due to engine penalties, they were nearly two seconds slower in Q3 than the 1:43.655s benchmark set by Max Verstappen.
In the race, Hamilton threw himself at Fernando Alonso at Turn 5, with a hard landing bringing his race to an end, while Russell threatened a podium, reeling in Carlos Sainz late on, but just falling short.
For Russell, it was the highlight of an otherwise chastening weekend for the Brackley-based team.
Few positives for Mercedes in Belgium
Russell recorded a 10th top-four result from the 14 races so far in 2022, but was still over 30 seconds behind race winner Verstappen.
However, he admitted that keeping the Red Bull behind was never a factor in Mercedes' race.
"I don't think we expected to finish two seconds behind Sainz," Russell told media including RacingNews365.com.
"We thought we'd be able to beat [Charles] Leclerc. We didn't think we would have been able to beat Verstappen; Max finished further ahead than we thought.
"We're probably closer to Ferrari than we thought, so positives in some ways, negative in others."
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Mercedes simply "didn't get it right"
Despite optimism within the team that they had turned a performance corner with double podiums in France and Hungary before the summer break, Mercedes were as far away from winning at Spa as they have been in 2022.
Russell admitted that the squad simply did not get their set-up right in the Ardennes Forest.
"That assessment is probably right, we definitely didn't get it right," explained Russell when asked if Spa was just an 'extreme manifestation' of the W13's problems.
"In qualifying, we were probably missing about a second due to tyres. [The race] was certainly a much stronger showing, but I do believe this exposes some of the weaknesses.
"I hope things will be improved. To be honest, it's all a bit confusing at the minute, so [there's] no guarantee."
Added challenges at Spa this season
Spa had also been resurfaced in a couple of places, in particular the Eau Rouge/Raidillon corners, as well as Turns 8 and 9, the downhill section leading off into the forest.
This presented a challenging experience for drivers, as they went from old track with low-grip to the new surface with high-grip.
"It's a really tricky circuit as the tarmac is so 'open'," observed Russell.
"The grip level in Turn 8/9 where it's been resurfaced is substantially higher compared to the rest of the track.
"To be honest, the car always felt great in those two corners, and it felt poor everywhere else. I'm surprised the whole circuit wasn't relaid, but I guess that makes it quite unique here at Spa.
"From a pure driving experience, it wasn't the nicest when you compare it to other circuits, especially as Budapest has recently been relaid."
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