Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin conceded Lewis Hamilton’s loss of track time in practice was a key reason for Red Bull’s domination of last Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
Last weekend saw F1 visit Zandvoort for the first time in the modern era and at an event where data gathering was crucial, Hamilton spent almost all of the second Friday practice session in the garage after stopping out on track.
That prevented Mercedes from completing its preparation programme and Shovlin said: “We were struggling getting the car in a nice balance window and Lewis missing his second session we were a bit on the back foot with him.
“Recovering that time is difficult. The opportunities are the normal ones like getting off the line. If that had been better, then it at least puts you in the driving seat.
“Looking at the stops, we were having to push very hard to close up, we certainly seemed a little bit stronger on that medium tyre and we could get that gap down a bit.
“We will go through it as we always do, but I don’t think there was a point where you would say we could have won. Also, when you look at the gaps and when we were at our closest, it was too far for us to run to the finish.
“In reality, there wasn’t any big opportunity that we let slip through our fingers, I think it goes back to arriving here in better shape with a set-up that’s working well, completing the programme and getting all our homework done.
“When we’ve ticked all those boxes we are normally in a position to challenge them for the win.”
Mercedes lacked confidence ahead of Dutch race
Hamilton has now won just once in the last nine races and Shovlin conceded the team started the weekend on the back foot even before the Briton suffered his early practice exit.
Shovlin added: “I don’t think we were terribly confident because we don’t know the circuit and it is a very unusual track. It wasn’t so much we go in with any expectations as to how likely it was we were going to win.
“When you’re doing the simulator work, once you know a circuit you know how to set up the simulator to replicate it very effectively. The balance we had on the simulator was quite different to the one we had when we started running on Friday.
“That was why we had to move it a bit more in terms of set-up than we do normally. Some of it was just coming to a new track.
"There is a lot we don’t know and that just left us with a bit more ground to make up than we would have liked.”