Max Verstappen is “in a league of his own”, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has been forced to admit before the F1 Dutch Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver looks set to follow up the events of Abu Dhabi 2021 with victory in the 2022 season, giving him back-to-back F1 championships.
While Lewis Hamilton was denied at the final hurdle last year, porpoising problems have rendered him unable to compete with his rival this season.
After Hamilton retired from the F1 Belgian Grand Prix after contact with Fernando Alonso, Mercedes team principal Wolff reflected on their weekend: “I don’t think we can be satisfied with that.
“If you see Verstappen being in a league of his own, it’s something that we really need to find out, how we can improve our car – the gap is just too big.
“I think that’s just the reality. We need to accept that the car is very difficult to drive, hasn’t got the pace on a single lap, so we need to work ourselves out of this.
“That was clearly not great from us all weekend, so I hope that a track [such as Zandvoort] would suit us more, that we are more competitive, but we mustn’t be too much between depression and mania.
“Today would be all the reasons to be depressed; in Hungary we were thinking ‘yes absolutely, we are going to win a race’, so we will never give up.”
Can Mercedes compete at F1 Dutch Grand Prix?
Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin added: “The weekend overall has been tough. We’d hoped to move forward here with our updates and whilst it seems that Ferrari are closer to us on race pace, Red Bull are clearly not.
“We have struggled with the various compromises the car has here, much more so than the races leading into the summer break and that’s definitely made our lives more difficult. In many ways that has given some useful learning, the car isn’t yet performing well enough over a range of tracks so it’s clear we need to widen the working window.”
Hamilton heads to this weekend’s F1 Dutch Grand Prix aiming for his first win of the season.