Toto Wolff has revealed Mercedes' only hope for the team to finish the F1 season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi to counter the "table of doom" prediction.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell locked out the third row of the Yas Island circuit grid on Saturday but fell six-tenths of a second short of Max Verstappen's pole time.
Despite a dominant showing last weekend in Brazil where Russell scored the team's first win of the year, Wolff is unsurprised by the margin to the two-time champion given the 'table of doom' forecasted a tough event.
“First of all, we always knew that we needed to be prudent and not set our expectations based on the Brazil result," said Wolff.
"That circuit perfectly suited our car and everything ran very, very smoothly.
“And Abu Dhabi, on our table of doom, was one of the worst tracks. Not catastrophic like the high-speed tracks but still, not ideal, and we saw that in qualifying.
“We were just way too draggy for a good qualifying time. We’re losing six-tenths on the straights and it is just not easily solved by reducing the rear wing because it is simply the aerodynamic efficiency the car is lacking.
"If we reduce the rear wing then we are not fast through the corners.
“In a way, it is good that there is a correlation between our simulation and the result.
"That is the one positive I see and I hope that we have a strong race car that is gentle on the tyres, even though maybe we can’t overtake or defend."
Laughing, Wolff added: “In the third sector, we just need to disappear into the distance!”
The early stages of the weekend highlighted a split of teams focusing on extracting single-lap pace from the three softest tyre compounds in the Pirelli range and those looking towards the race and longevity.
This was also the case last year when Verstappen took pole but ultimately lacked pace on Sunday.
“That is exactly where we are," added Wolff. "It’s top speed versus tyre saving.
“We’ll see in the race if we can really gain an advantage and be happier with the tyres.”