Lewis Hamilton believes it will be "going to be a while" before Mercedes can compete for Formula 1 victories if its qualifying performance in France continues. Mercedes qualified nearly eight tenths off the pole.
Hamilton: "It will be a while" before I win if France's F1 form continues.
Mercedes arrived to Paul Ricard hoping to gain ground on front-running rivals Red Bull and Ferrari because to the circuit layout and surface, which were predicted to play to the W13's strengths.
In practice, Mercedes was unable to get into the middle of the action, and Hamilton and teammate George Russell could only qualify in fourth and sixth place, respectively.
Hamilton felt "very fantastic" on his final Q3 lap, describing it as "amazing," but finished 0.89 seconds behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc's pole place time.
"For whatever reason, we seem to be a lot further off this weekend, but then the whole pack is really," Hamilton said.
"The top two teams are in their own league really. But considering I missed FP1, which definitely does put you on the back foot, I'm really happy with the progress we made, and everyone back at the factory was working really hard with us to make progress.
"We took a step back today, but into qualifying I managed to turn it up."
Mercedes has not finished higher than third in a race this season, but Hamilton is confident the team will be back in contention for victory by the end of the year.
Asked if he could pinpoint when that win may arrive, Hamilton replied: "Honestly, I came here this weekend hoping that we were going to be within three tenths of them, and we're a second [off].
"So with the three tenths that I was hoping for, and if at the next race we can close a couple of tenths, then we'll be in the fight in Budapest.
"But if it's anything like this, then it's going to be a while. But it is not impossible."
Hamilton attributed the margin to Ferrari and Red Bull to time lost on the straights, stating that his first sector pace during his final Q3 lap was "just as fast as those guys."
"But then it is all straights, and we lose a lot," added Hamilton. "I do not know the time, but it must be at least a half-second simply down the straightaways.
"And then all through that high-speed section, the last few corners, they're pulling chunks on us. It's like they have less drag and more downforce through the corners."
Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff underlined Hamilton's fears about how far away a triumph may be, stating that the team arrived in France "thinking we would race for victory" but ended up "far away than before."
"I hope at the other [tracks] we can have the same swing the other direction," Wolff said.
"We will find out what happened here and if it's clearly something fundamental, and then [we can] race for victories this year.
"This needs to be still the target because we need direction for next year."