It's one of those F1 clich?s that there are no points to be gained from qualifying and that there's little point getting excited about winning pole position on Saturday when it can all go wrong on the Sunday. And rarely has that truism been so conspicuously demonstrated than it was this weekend in Barcelona in the Spanish Grand Prix.

"We endured a very difficult afternoon," conceded team principal Ross Brawn. "The comparison between our competitiveness in qualifying and in the race was particularly disappointing."

"Today's race showed a similar pattern to what we have seen with our team in recent seasons: we have a quick car but it works the tyres too hard," added Mercedes' director of motorsport. "It is very clear that we have not yet found the right compromise between our performance on Saturday and Sunday and that we will need a lot of hard work to get it right."

Having locked up the front-row of the grid, the team must have been confident of at least finishing both drivers in the points. Nico Rosberg managed to cling on to sixth place during an afternoon which got progressively more gruelling and dispiriting, but he still looked in a stormy mood when he stepped out of the car after the race.

"I didn't expect it to be that tough, I thought we would be in a better position," he admitted. "It's difficult to explain how we can have one fast lap and one that is so slow. It's not just the front axle it's the back as well so we don't know what is going on.

"I had a very tough race this afternoon," he continued. "The start was good and I managed my first stint well to keep some of the quicker cars behind me. From there, I had to drive my own race and we began to go backwards.

"It made no sense to destroy my tyres by trying to stay ahead," he explained. "We didn't have the pace of the quickest cars today and there's a growing gap to three teams ahead of us which we need to get on top of. We have a very quick car but we have to make it work for us in the race."

If Rosberg was feeling in a bad mood after at least managing to finish in the points, then what to say about Lewis Hamilton who suffered the ignominy of being overtaken by hold old McLaren team mate Jenson Button at one point before finishing a lap down and out of the points in 12th - a very long fall from the grace of the front row.

He was putting on a brave corporate face as he spoke to the media immediately after the race, however: "The team are fantastic and the work they have been doing is terrific - we have just got a lot to do to catch up with the others, but we will get there," he insisted.

He admitted that it had been "a difficult afternoon today" and added that "going backwards is never fun."

While Rosberg laboured on with a three-stop strategy, Hamilton was forced to witch to a four-stopped after he just couldn't maintain a reasonable race pace without killing off the tyres.

"We switched to a four-stop strategy during the race but I suffered with a lack of grip and balance throughout and we were never really able to get the tyres working," he said. "I know that everyone at the team is working so hard and we need to keep positive. I'm sure we will figure the problem out and we've got to keep pushing together to close the gap."

"Nico did an excellent job managing the tyres to make just three stops," added Brawn. "His level of performance showed what our car is currently capable of on tracks like this.

"Lewis didn't have a good balance at any point and that simply made a critical situation worse," he added.

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