Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff thought they would "eat McLaren up" at the end of the British Grand Prix.
Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had a tyre advantage over Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in the closing stages, after a late Safety Car forced McLaren to put Norris on Hard tyres while Hamilton was on Soft.
Piastri had already pitted prior to the Safety Car and elected to stay out on Hards, with Russell behind on Mediums.
Norris was unhappy with the decision to switch to Hard tyres given the amount of laps it took to bring them up to temperature, with Wolff thinking Mercedes could easily overtake both drivers for a shot at a double podium.
"When the Safety Car was deployed, I was pretty sure - if not convinced - that we will be eating up the McLarens and finishing with P2 and P3 or even challenging for the front," he told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"We could've had a go at them in the first few laps, but they both raced very strong and with their efficiency and top speed through the high speed corners and on the straight, there was no way to pass them. That came as a surprise."
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Wolff: Our car remains a handful
When asked why Mercedes elected to put Russell on the Soft tyres at the start instead of saving them for the end, Wolff explained that the team thought it was a better opportunity for Russell to gain places at the start.
"We wanted to have an offset between the two drivers and the Soft tyre provides a good get away at the start," he said.
"It was very resilient on Friday in the long runs and it was even more in the race pace, so we were we were surprised to see how long it was going."
Despite the podium with Hamilton, it was clear Mercedes still lacked the pace to get it on merit. Wolff concedes that Silverstone did not meet their expectations, even though they have historically been strong at the track.
"Overall the car was not where we've seen it in Silverstone the last years," he admitted.
"That was the track that we were really dominant and strong, but the the high speed was not good at all compared to our direct competitors.
"In qualifying we were struggling on traction on the exits overall, so the car remains a handful."