Toto Wolff has described Mercedes' current level of performance as "totally unacceptable", adding that "it's just not an option" for the team to remain so far adrift of early 2022 pace-setters Ferrari and Red Bull.
Mercedes endured a particularly tough qualifying session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton dramatically dropping out in Q1 for the first time since 2017 amid ongoing struggles aboard the W13.
George Russell managed to squeeze through to the top 10 shootout in the sister machine, from where he salvaged sixth on the grid, albeit with a best lap around a second slower than the pole position time.
Wolff: It is totally unacceptable where we are
Having welcomed competition ahead of F1's rules reset, Wolff was asked if he now feels the same way, and the Mercedes boss offered his assessment of the situation.
"I love competition, and I've always loved competition," Wolff told media, including RacingNews365.com, after qualifying.
"We had a really strong run of eight years where we were leading the pack. Not always, but we kind of managed our way into the lead.
"This time, for me, feels a little bit like 2013, where we just weren't up to the speed with the Red Bull, and probably also not with the Ferrari, but we kept fighting, and this is how I feel at the moment.
"We need to fight. It is certainly totally unacceptable where we are on performance. We're third on the road, sometimes not, even, like today.
"It's just not an option to stay where we are."
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Why such a big gap between Russell and Hamilton?
Hamilton suggested after qualifying that he had gone "the wrong way" in terms of set-up direction ahead of his Q1 exit.
Wolff addressed the gulf between Hamilton and Russell's qualifying performances but played down the difference in their set-ups, instead driving home the fundamental issues Mercedes are dealing with.
"There were not huge set-up changes that happened, but they were big enough to have dramatic consequences on the performance of the car – between going out in Q1 and making it solidly into Q3," he said.
"We had a lower drag rear wing, we took the gurney off, but still it wasn't enough to shave more drag off the car.
"But, generally, I would say this isn't a single problem. We have many parts of the car that don't work, that we don't understand, that don't perform enough, and this is not where we all expect the car to be."
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