Toto Wolff has offered an explanation for his public apologies to Lewis Hamilton over team radio.
Mercedes are enduring their worst season since the turbo-hybrid era began back in 2014.
The Brackley-based team have taken every Constructors' Championship in that time, including in 2021, despite Lewis Hamilton's defeat to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the Drivers' Championship.
This season, Mercedes have lost ground in car performance to Ferrari and Red Bull, who are fighting for both championships.
Instead, Mercedes have been battling with porpoising and set-up difficulties with the W13. They are without a victory and have mostly competed for sporadic podiums.
Despite pace improvements in recent events – achieving podiums in the last six races as well as a pole position – Mercedes generally remain off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari.
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Wolff: The problems are with the car, not the drivers
In some of Mercedes' tougher events, Mercedes Team Principal Wolff felt the need to apologise to Hamilton over the team radio on more than one occasion.
Wolff explained that Hamilton's early struggles were emphasised by bad luck, and his teammate George Russell's ability to deal with difficult cars.
"I need to protect him, because people have started to hit out at him, which is not right," Wolff commented to Square Mile.
"It's complete nonsense: he's the greatest driver of all-time. The car is just sub par.
"George has sometimes struggled a bit less because he's maybe used to driving difficult cars at the back of the grid, but Lewis was unlucky on many occasions.
"He could have scored another two podiums and then the pendulum would have swung.
"So, it [the apology] is to make sure that everybody comprehends that the car is not performing, and not that the driver is at fault."
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