Mercedes’ hopes of claiming a victory at the British Grand Prix look slim after a team engineer admitted that no change to the set-up of the car will put them on a par with Ferrari or Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton took third in Canada last weekend to score his second podium of the season and his first since the opening race.
The result sparked faint hopes that the seven-time world champion could compete to win his home race at Silverstone on 3 July, but the comments of a Mercedes engineer suggest otherwise.
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German outlet Auto Motor und Sport spoke to an unnamed engineer, who said: "Our performance at the moment only depends on the set-up.
“But no set-up in the world makes a Red Bull or Ferrari out of this car.”
Hamilton currently sits in sixth place in the driver’s standings with 77 points, 98 points behind leader Max Verstappen’s 175.
His team-mate George Russell, in his maiden season as a Mercedes driver, is fourth with 111 points, while his team is lagging behind Red Bull and Ferrari in the constructor’s standings.
Mechanical problems have plagued Mercedes all season, and they lack the pace of the two frontrunners.
But Hamilton was hopeful of a turnaround after finishing on the podium in Montreal, with Russell behind him in fourth.
"It has given me a lot of hope there is more to come from this car, that the potential is truly there if we can get the set-up right," Hamilton said.
But the engineers don’t sound as confident that things will turn around soon.
“It's like an onion. You peel off a skin and there's another skin underneath," one said in describing the problems.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was realistic about his team’s chances after Canada, with nine races of the 22-stop season now completed.
“We have scored four to five podiums and we are seeing glimpses of performance, but it is far away from our own expectations of ourselves,” Wolff said.
“You need to see a podium as a good result on merit and I'm happy for Lewis because he was really disadvantaged in some of the races where the safety car went against him. But still a lot of work to do."
There is a busy month ahead with four Grand Prix’s coming up in July.
After Silverstone, the Formula One roadshow goes to Austria, France and Hungary.
The 2022 season runs until 20 November, when the final race takes place in Abu Dhabi.
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