Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has revealed that the porpoising afflicting the W13 is so extreme the car is actually damaging itself out on track.
Wolff was speaking after first practice at Imola, where George Russell finished 10th and five seconds off the pace set by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, with Lewis Hamilton in 18th and a further two seconds back.
He said the situation with Mercedes' car bouncing down the straights is as bad as they've experienced so far this season.
"The feedback that we're getting from Lewis and George is that there's literally zero grip and that these gaps point to the tyres," he told Sky Sports F1 after the session.
"[But] that is not the worst [of it]. We had George bouncing so much that he broke the stay on the floor."
The 'stay' refers to a rod fitted to the rear of the car, attached between the body and the floor. It's there to help keep the floor from flexing downwards, with teams being permitted to fit these after porpoising issues were identified during pre-season testing.
"You can't drive [with that], you have to lift on the straight," Wolff explained, when asked how the bouncing is affecting the drivers' bodies under such extreme circumstances.
"They are trained. I have never experienced in my life bouncing like this, but [it's] clearly not drivable."
Wolff resolute: Mercedes can fight for this championship
Despite the ongoing issues for Mercedes, Wolff reiterated his belief that the team can eventually join in the championship fight later in the season as Mercedes address the W13's problems.
"I think when you're optimistic, and I'm rarely optimistic in my assessments... if we are able to unlock the potential in the car, I think we can fight for this championship," he said.
"But, at the moment, when you see the gaps - particularly today - it seems a totally unrealistic endeavour. But we just keep continuing and trying to understand."
Having won eight Constructors' Championships in a row between 2014 and 2021, Wolff feels the serious setback at the start of 2022 will only make the team stronger in the long run.
"I like getting it wrong, because that means you learn so much more," he said.
"Obviously, it's painful whilst you're in the moment. Certainly, when I see our car, pounding around five seconds off the pace, you want to strangle yourself.
"But, as a matter of fact, I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy it being bad because, over the long run in these regulations, we're gonna be good."
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Is the Sprint format making the weekend more difficult?
With Mercedes opting against bringing any serious updates to the W13, in light of the curtailed pre-qualifying practice time due to the Sprint format, Wolff said it's been difficult to make any inroads into improving their car.
"Well, considering our situation and where we are with the car, that makes it worse – there's nothing you can really try," he commented.
"You can't bring any upgrades because [the practice time is] too short. We've taken some weight out now, [but] we don't know whether taking the weight out actually increases the porpoising.
"So I mean, it's literally exploring on the job. Not at all how we've done F1 before, but [it's] our own doing."
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