Mercedes says a "wacky" and radical set-up approach implemented in Austria may have hurt its car's race pace and impacted tyre degradation.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton qualified a couple of tenths behind pacesetter Max Verstappen on Saturday, but on race day the Red Bull charger sailed off into the distance to take his fourth win of the 2021 season.
But Verstappen's 35-second margin over Hamilton at the checkered flag was particularly impressive and validated once again Red Bull's edge over Mercedes.
But Andrew Shovlin, the Brackley squad's trackside engineering director, believes that Mercedes' decision to "be a bit brave" and to opt for a radical set-up approach at the Red Bull Ring may have weighed on the race pace of its W12 Black Arrow.
"It is a difficult and quite peculiar circuit and Red Bull are normally strong here," said Shovlin.
"But we were also exploring a fairly wacky direction with the set-up, as a radical approach which I think was maybe a bit better on a single lap.
"The question that remains is whether we’ve hurt our degradation and we need to look at that in the next day or two.
"Lewis, before he came here, was doing a lot of work in the driver-in-loop simulator, and it looked like an interesting direction.
"But an important part of this year for us is adapting well to every track and we do need to be a bit brave and original with set-up direction to do that."
F1 teams will give it another go at the Red Bull Ring this week. However, Pirelli has opted to supply a softer (C3, C4, C5) tyre selection for next weekend's second round of racing.
"The one big area is understanding this set-up departure that we’ve taken and whether or not that has made life more difficult for the rear tyres in the long run," added Shovlin.
"Some of that we can just do by data. We’ll see whether or not there’s work that’s going to carry into the Friday of the race weekend.
"Fundamentally the car’s very similar but there are additional challenges of extracting the grip out of that C5 compound, the very softest rubber on the single lap. That might be quite challenging if it is very hot here."
Shovlin suggested that improving the W12's speed and tyre degradation might be achieved by a single solution.
"I think we were down by a couple of tenths in the race and there’s a bit of degradation. But the solution to both of those problems might be the same thing," said the Mercedes engineer.
"We’ll just try and get the rears running a bit cooler and look after the rubber a bit better and you may find that both of those things come our way.
"So we will focus on those areas and it’ll just be a case of seeing if we can come back a bit stronger in a few days’ time."