Just one grand prix after George Russell’s surprising pole position in Hungary, Mercedes has been unable to find an answer to why it is so far off pace at Spa-Francorchamps.
In a weekend where multiple drivers’ grid penalties gave the German team another good chance of going for victory, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished just seventh and eighth.
But more worrying was the fact that Hamilton was a whopping 1.838 seconds slower than the leader in the standings, Max Verstappen.
Brackley boss Toto Wolff said such a dramatic change in Mercedes’ fortunes from Hungary was not something he found easy to digest.
“You can’t be on pole three weeks earlier, albeit in very different conditions, on a different track, and then be 1.8sec off the pace at the next one,” he said. “So there’s something we don’t quite understand, or don’t seem to understand.”
“It is clear that Red Bull is here in its own league, as the next Ferrari is eight tenths away. But that is not a consolation.”
“For me it’s the worst qualifying session we’ve had in 10 years. And regardless of what positions we’re going to start tomorrow, being on pole the weekend before and three weeks later not being anywhere, it’s not acceptable to us.”
Hamilton, who will start fourth on the grid thanks to several cars qualifying ahead of him having engine change penalties, said he could not come up with an explanation for what had gone wrong.
“I never thought I’d be two seconds away. It’s much, much worse than I thought,” he said. “Obviously it doesn’t make sense, but that’s it, we’ve tried everything. I’ve put everything on and taken it off, I’ve changed the wings, I’ve changed the set-up, I’ve done everything this weekend.”
“I’ve tried a lot of things and it’s amazing to see us so far away. Maybe they’ve come too far, I don’t know if they have improvements or not, but it’s tough.”
Wolff echoed that they had no obvious answer as to why Mercedes was so slow, as there were a number of factors that came into play.
“If we understood it, we could adjust it,” he lamented. “But the car has a lot of drag down the straight. Lewis [Hamilton] said it was like dragging a parachute behind him.”
“It’s wobbly at the rear. It understeers in turns eight and nine. It bounces around at high speed and doesn’t give confidence.”
“I want to say that there is nothing positive that I have heard about the performance of the car here all weekend. So I think now is the time to consolidate and decide what to do next year.