Lewis Hamilton has described the gap to Formula 1 rivals Red Bull and Ferrari as a “real kick in the teeth” following Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.
Mercedes has struggled with tyre warm-up throughout the Spa weekend, but rescued fourth place on the grid with Hamilton after grid penalties were applied to other drivers, with teammate George Russell in fifth.
However, Hamilton, a six-time pole sitter at Spa was still nearly two seconds slower than Verstappen’s benchmark 1m:43.655s effort in Q3.
That is something that left the seven-time World Champion feeling downbeat.
“Everyone’s working for improvements, and we came here very optimistic that we’re going to be close [maybe] half-a-second [behind Red Bull and Ferrari],” he explained to Sky Sports F1 post-session.
“And to be 1.8s behind is a real kick in the teeth, but it is what it is.
“It is a car we continue to struggle with, and definitely won’t miss it at the end of the year.
“For me, it is just about focusing on how we build and design next year’s car.
“The other two teams ahead of us are in another league, but our car is so much different to theirs.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, we’ll do the best we can with what we have for the rest of the season.”
Russell: W13 capable of more than this
Russell snatched an unlikely pole position last time out in Hungary, but he too was flummoxed by Mercedes’ lack of pace, even to midfield runners like Alpine.
“To comprehend that you are on pole at the last race and we’re 1.8 seconds off today, not obviously just to Max but we were six-tenths behind the Alpines,” Russell explained.
“When the temperature is cold, we struggle, we saw it in Imola this year, we’ve seen it in many of our Fridays – we just can’t seem to get the tyres to work and so it is pretty frustrating.
“We’ll have a lot more pace tomorrow compared to the Alpines, McLarens and Williams, but we will still be half a second behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
“I think Max will probably still win the race. I don’t know where he’s going to be starting, but the pace he’s got he’ll probably still win the race and then Charles as well, he’ll probably come through so I think it’s unlikely we’ll be on the podium,” Russell noted when asked in Mercedes could bag a visit to the rostrum in the race.
“[Morale in the team] is obviously not great, because we were more than this.
“We’re Mercedes and qualifying P7 and P8 is not where we want to be and we know that’s not where the car is.
“We know we probably don’t have the fastest or second fastest car, but we definitely have a car that’s capable of more than P8 or P7.”