Mercedes are concerned that Lewis Hamilton and his teammates will face another difficult Grand Prix weekend.
The fourth race of the season will take place in Imola, and the Silver Arrows, who have yet to reach their finest form, fear they are in for another difficult few days.
The grid for Sunday’s showpiece will be determined by a sprint race for the first time this season.
The constructors’ champions, according to the team’s Motorsport Strategy Director James Vowles, will be quite limited this weekend.
“Imola is going to be a challenging event,” said Vowles, speaking on Mercedes’ own YouTube channel. “It is our first sprint race of the season, so unlike previous events where we had FP1, FP2 and FP3 really to get to grips with the car and test how we are going to improve the car performance.
“We now just have one free practice session and that free practice session dominates what happens in qualifying and in the race, so it is very limited in terms of what we can learn and what we can do. When we get back to the European season, teams would generally bring more performance upgrades,” he added.
“I suspect you will see an evolution of our competitors and we need to make sure we, at the very minimum, keep up with that.”
“There’s been a lot of hard work over the Easter weekend in the factory to bring improvements to the car and get it ready to head to the next race, and that shows the team’s dedication to turning the situation around,” the Austrian said. “Of course, we must be realistic, it will take time to make the gains we want, but we’re learning as much as we can from each race and finding avenues to push us forward.”
Despite his team’s sluggish start, Hamilton is optimistic that Mercedes will once again compete at the top of the grid. “I prefer to stay optimistic. There are 20 races to go,” he said.
“If you think realistically in terms of the way the sport goes in terms of development, the top teams often develop at a similar pace. Will that be the case with this new car? Who knows.
“I’m really hopeful we can get in the fight but with every bit of improvement, Ferrari and Red Bull will probably make a similar sort of step so it’s not going to be easy. Yes, the gap is pretty big right now but there is a long way to go.”