Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ended up fifth and sixth in qualifying after late improvements in Q3, marking a notable performance turnaround compared to Friday practice. 

However, Hamilton’s best lap was still nearly a full second off the pace of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who beat Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to pole as F1 made its long-awaited return to Melbourne

The performance of Mercedes’ W13 challenger at the start of the season has been limited by several issues, including severe porpoising. While overnight set-up changes helped improve things for the drivers in qualifying, Wolff conceded the team is no closer to a permanent fix.

“I think set-up directions are very, very important and we saw today that the drivers were much happier with the car than yesterday,” Wolff said. 

“Night and day were the words that Lewis chose. But we are talking a couple of tenths or maybe a bit more. The long runs will be interesting but there is a gremlin in our car, or a few gremlins, that we haven’t found yet. 

“That is something that we need to continue to analyse and look at the data. As I said, it’s physics not mystics.” 

Wolff acknowledged that Mercedes’ starting positions for Sunday’s race were ultimately boosted by issues for faster cars, including Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.  

"I am satisfied with the result today,” Wolff added. 

"Obviously, if you correct Sainz and Alonso, it is less good but it is still solid in the top 10 which was not a given with the closeness of the front end of the midfield.

"I think we are just learning the car, we are learning the tyres. Nothing this weekend has unlocked the aerodynamic potential or has reduced the bouncing. We are still at the same place and that is why it doesn't make any sense to bring updates.

"You confuse yourself even more. Maybe it is even the fact that the more downforce you bring, the worse the bouncing gets so we are still learning.”

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes has made ‘no progress’

Hamilton, who compared the W13 to a “rattlesnake” after qualifying, insisted Mercedes “haven’t made any progress” with its car, despite the upswing in performance compared to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Mercedes was expected to bring a new rear wing and possible floor updates to Melbourne but they are now set to be introduced at the next round in Imola. Hamilton says he remains hopeful a solution can be found sooner rather than later. 

“I don’t know what is coming yet but I’m really, really hopeful,” he said. “I know everyone is working really, really hard but we’ve had three races and no progress in those three races. 

“So I really hope over this next week, we can get as much information as we can from the race tomorrow and I hope that we’re somehow able to figure out how we can fix something for the next race.” 

Hamilton also rejected the suggestion he is having to re-train his mind due to the position Mercedes currently finds itself in after becoming so used to winning. 

“It is a long way off [to the front], it is a second off. It’s a huge gap but I just enjoy the role of working with the team,” he said.

 

“I don’t enjoy driving this car but I enjoy the collaboration with the guys, knowing that there is a steep hill to climb and just remaining hopeful that we will get there.

“In some places it [the car] doesn’t feel terrible, it’s just not as fast as the others. Where you are really unhappy is with the porpoising, that’s really the worst characteristic that I’ve experienced in the car and we can’t get rid of it at the moment.”