Toto Wolff was bewildered by Mercedes’ “inexcusable performance” in Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix and felt sorry for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell having to drive such a “miserable” car.
The Brackley squad’s dismal race followed the team’s poor showing in Saturday’s Sprint event at Interlagos where a lack of straight line speed and tyre degradation conspired to undermine the outfit’s efforts.
Hamilton and Russell started respectively P5 and P8 on Sunday, and the pair actually enjoyed a reasonably good start as they ran consistently among the top 5 in the opening quarter of the event.
But degradation eventually set in, forcing both drivers to ditch their soft tyres earlier than scheduled and to prolong their subsequent stint on the medium rubber.
Over the duration of the race, neither Hamilton or Russell were able to make much progress or extricate themselves from the second tier of the midfield.
In the end, Hamilton managed to salvage P8 but Russell, running just behind his teammate in the top-ten, was forced to retire with 14 laps to go due to soaring engine temperatures.
For Wolff, after the team’s strong outings in Austin and in Mexico, Sunday’s display was a tangled mess that the Mercedes boss struggled to understand.
"Inexcusable performance," Wolff told Sky Sports F1. "There are even no words for that. That car finished second last week and the week before. And whatever we did to it was horrible.
"Lewis survived out there. But, George, I can only feel for the two driving such a miserable thing.
"It shows how difficult the car is, it's on a knife's edge. We've got to develop that better for next year.
"Because it can't be that within seven days, you're finishing on the podium with probably one of the two quickest cars and then finish eighth."
Wolff suggested that Mercedes’ issues were rooted, at least in part, in its rear wing choice for Interlagos.
The element, while it delivered more downforce, impacted its car’s straight-line speed but also increased degradation.
"I think straight-line speed was one issue, but probably not the main factor," commented the Austrian.
"The main factor was that we couldn't go around the corners with a bigger wing with the pace we needed and we were killing the tyres, just eating them up within a few laps.
"We are clearly not the world champions on sprint race weekends. We do some good work here on track to get it done.
"But still, that doesn't explain what went wrong. I mean, that car almost drove like on three wheels and not four."
Wolff elaborated on Russell’s retirement.
"George's issue was the power unit at the end, we were over all metrics on cooling," he said.
"It was the last race of the PU, but it is what it is. I'm not sure if we would have finished with the point or not."