Toto Wolff believes that both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are "outperforming" Mercedes' troubled car this season, despite the gap between them at Imola.
Russell had the measure of Hamilton throughout the Emilia Romagna weekend, finishing ahead in qualifying, the Sprint race and the main Grand Prix.
It was in the Grand Prix that Russell put eight cars between himself and Hamilton, having made a strong getaway in wet conditions before managing the switch to slick tyres.
It led former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg to accuse Wolff of "not telling the truth" about Hamilton's weekend, arguing that the Briton "had a big role to play" in the result.
DRS train made it "impossible" for Hamilton
However, Wolff was keen to downplay the margin between his two drivers, pointing to the single DRS zone - which only came online after the halfway mark of the 63-lap race - as a significant factor.
"You see that when there is a DRS train like we had in the Sprint race, none of them could overtake," he told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"It's really if you're being boxed in, in a train of cars, it's just almost impossible to overtake.
"I think Lewis had much more pace than [Pierre] Gasly or [Alex] Albon or all the other guys in front of him, but there's one DRS straight, and if you haven't got the straight-line speed, you can't pass.
"I think both drivers are doing the utmost and outperforming the car at the moment.
"We've seen that reaping the results for George, who did an outstanding race, a perfect start and then handled a car that was that wasn't tuned optimally, and Lewis was just stuck there in the back."
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Russell's result "as good as it gets" for Mercedes
Russell's efforts in Sunday's race were all the more impressive given that an issue with Mercedes' front wing adjusters at his first pit-stop meant he ended up driving the dry stint with a wet aero balance.
"I mean, P4, with [Carlos] Sainz [out] and [Charles] Leclerc on the track in P6, that's probably as good as it gets," said Wolff.
"We had a design failure of our flap adjustment during the pit-stop, so we couldn't put the wing in that was necessary for his second stint.
"[It was probably] a few tenths off the pace every single lap, managing understeer, and he did that brilliantly, so again, outperforming the car."
Mercedes have slipped to third in the Constructors' standings after the Imola weekend, while Russell and Hamilton hold fourth and seventh respectively in the Drivers' rankings.
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