Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says he is assuming that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell can still win races in 2022, despite being over one second per lap slower than their rivals in Australia.
The team look set for another difficult Grand Prix weekend, after Russell and Hamilton placed 11th and 13th respectively during Free Practice 2 at Albert Park on Friday.
Ferrari and Red Bull, meanwhile, continued their battle at the top of the timing sheets, with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen once again on fine form.
It leaves Mercedes with work to do ahead of Saturday's qualifying session, two weeks on from Hamilton's shock Q1 exit in Saudi Arabia.
Wolff: I'm assuming we'll still win races this year
The fear at Brackley will be that their slow start to the season - brought about by a failure to solve their problems with porpoising - could allow their most fierce rivals to build an uncatchable lead during the opening rounds of the season, leaving the squad with a mountain to climb.
As such, Wolff admits that there is work for the team to do if they are to stay in the fight.
"We're getting closer step by step, but the others aren't asleep. And they already understood this problem in February," Wolff has explained, speaking to Austrian outlet Krone.
“I'm assuming that we'll still be able to win this year but that doesn't happen by itself, you have to fight for it."
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Red Bull are the benchmark for Mercedes
Ferrari may lead the World Championship after the opening two rounds, but it is Red Bull who are the team to beat in 2022, believe Mercedes.
Christian Horner's outfit are said to have struggled to keep the weight of their car down so far this season, but this is a problem that Wolff fears they are getting on top of.
"Red Bull and Ferrari are ahead of us at the moment. It will be difficult to catch up, but we know where the bar is," he said.
"If Red Bull is still losing weight, they are the benchmark."
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