After Mercedes failed to get at least one of its cars into Q3 for the first time since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton could only finish 14th - three places behind teammate George Russell - in Saturday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix sprint race. 

Despite Mercedes' miserable start to the season amid its struggles to get on top of its uncompetitive W13 challenger, the seven-time world champion rejected the suggestion the Silver Arrows find themselves in completely new territory this year. 

“The team has been through many, many bad years,” Hamilton said. “Most of the people I’m working with have been here 20 years. It wasn’t the greatest of years in 2013 but we’ve had great years since then. 

“We stick together and try to motivate everyone. This is the situation we are faced with. Everyone has got their heads down and working as hard as they can. 

“We are obviously not fighting for the championship but we are fighting to understand the car, improve and progress through the year. 

“That’s all we can hope for, right now.” 

Asked what Mercedes can take from what is shaping up to be another difficult weekend, Hamilton replied: “We have got data. A lot of work is going on in the background. But this is what it is, it is what we have. 

“Ultimately, we haven’t got it right this year but everyone is working hard to correct it.” 

Mercedes' F1 challenge is 'behind where it deserves to be’ 

Russell sat 12th for much of the sprint race after dropping behind Mick Schumacher’s Haas at the start but finished 11th after pulling off a late pass on Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel. 

The Briton believes Mercedes “probably overachieved” in the first three races of the season but thinks the team would have been in a better position had it not been hampered by tyre warm-up issues during the cool conditions seen in Friday qualifying. 

“It has clearly been a difficult weekend for us,” Russell admitted. “We probably overachieved in the first three races and this weekend we are probably behind where we deserve to be. 

“I think we know why the tyre warm-up has been so difficult. Yesterday it was only 13 degrees and we saw the Haas’ excel and the McLaren’s. 

“We have got to strike and find a balance somewhere but there is nothing we can really do for tomorrow - we will just capitalise where possible.”

He added: “We have got work to do. The car is faster but we just don’t have the speed on the straights to actually move forwards. 

“We have small kinks on these straights and there’s only one overtaking opportunities and that halted us.” 

Russell reckons running an alternate strategy could prove to be Mercedes’ best bet of moving forwards in Sunday’s grand prix. 

“I think strategy will be key and I think we have to do something different to our competition,” he said. 

“That will give us the opportunity to fight and to move up the grid. I’m sure we will understand more tonight but it is going to be tricky.”