Toto Wolff has explained that the Mercedes W13 is losing most of its time in one particular area of the Bahrain International Circuit.
His two drivers will line up in fifth and ninth for Sunday's Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell respectively, after a last-lap error from Russell put the kibosh on any chance of an all-third row for Mercedes.
"I think we have to be realistic about our performance level at the moment," Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after qualifying.
"That is [being the] third quickest team on the grid, and Lewis has put the car there.
"For George, it was probably us misguiding him on his last outing, because we advised him to push [on his outlap], and [he] probably had no edge anymore to the new tyre."
Where are Mercedes losing most of their speed?
Asked where the W13 is losing most of its lap time, which is some seven-tenths of a second to the qualifying benchmark set by Charles Leclerc's Ferrari, Wolff said it's a very obvious deficit in one area, but the rest is tough to figure out.
"[It's] very difficult to make a judgment at this stage," he commented, before revealing a few more details.
"I think we are running more drag, or we have the
data that we are running more drag than anybody else.
"We can see that we are losing on the main straight, but not so much in all the other ones, so we need to make an assessment after the first couple of races to see [if we are] lacking power or deployment, before we point fingers into some of the areas."
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What's the gap between Mercedes and the front?
While Mercedes' best time in qualifying was seven-tenths away from pole, Wolff reckons the true gap is a little smaller, and that circumstances had increased the deficit.
"We are seven-tenths behind with one car – that is where we are," he said.
"We had only one run on the new tyre in Q3; that's probably another two to three-tenths, or maybe two-tenths.
"Realistically, it's about half a second that we are missing on a single lap.
"Let's see tomorrow. I'm a little bit wary about where we will be tomorrow. But, in any case, it's learning."
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