Niki Lauda says Mercedes has no chance of challenging for victory in the Singapore Grand Prix, suggesting the best result it can hope for is third position.

Having dominated qualifying in 2015 with a clean sweep of poles from the 12 races so far, Mercedes endured a remarkably dismal evening around the Marina Bay Circuit as it struggled to get the tyres to work on either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg's car.

Leaving the pair down on the third row of the grid more than 1.5secs adrift of Sebastian Vettel's pole position winning time, with both drivers perplexed by the margin, Lauda issued a pessimistic prediction for the team ahead of the race, saying it will be lucky to be on the podium.

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"In terms of pure speed, no way [we can make it up]," he told Sky Sports. You have to take chances at this race and it is always difficult with people dropping out or mechanical problems, so we have to be careful in the early laps and then sit there. Hopefully something happens out front, Lewis can get third. The most I would guess..."

Urging Mercedes to 'sit down and carefully understand' why its pace has dwindled so dramatically just two weeks on from a dominant performance in Monza, Lauda denied it was due to the new tyre pressure directives.

"The temperature here is always as it is. In Monza they increased it because of the problems of Spa, but here we are back to normal tyre pressures we had in Monte Carlo, so this should have no effect on our problem.

"We tried everything with the car to get the grip level back but it never came back. We have to sit down and carefully understand what we did wrong because the car is no different. Something we must have done wrong in Singapore that we don't understand, and we have to find the answer."