Mercedes' hopes of a second place finish in the Formula 1 constructors' championship are in jeopardy, with the team's trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitting McLaren now have a faster car.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished down in fifth and seventh respectively at Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, with McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finishing on the podium behind Max Verstappen. Mercedes still hold second spot, but are just 20 points clear of Ferrari who closed the gap again at Suzuka.

McLaren are some way adrift of their rivals with five races of the season remaining. However, they will have Aston Martin in their sights between now and the close of the campaign.

"You don't get to a point in a race where you really have a switch of thinking,” Shovlin told media after the Japanese Grand Prix, per RacingNews365. “But we didn't have a great start. Lewis was pushed wide, he dropped a position to [Fernando] Alonso.

“McLaren was a quicker car [in the race]. When your opposition's ahead of you with a buffer car in between you, you can't really interact with them.

“Why is McLaren quick? Well, I think the update they did in Singapore didn't look massive there.

"That's all low-speed corners. Here it's all high-speed. And you know, that's what we saw them get very good at when they did the previous update in Austria. So right now they've just got a better car.”

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Mercedes only have one podium finish between their two drivers across the last six grands prix. That came in Singapore, when Hamilton took third after team-mate Russell crashed on the final lap while trying to chase down McLaren driver Norris.

Hamilton questioned Mercedes' order to give Russell DRS late in the race in an effort to hold off Ferrari's Carlos Sainz. The tweak failed to have the desired effect, with Russell eventually ordered to let his team-mate through, and Hamilton suggested the requirement for him to ease off to support Russell left both men vulnerable to Sainz.

"I don't think that was a good idea at all," the 38-year-old said. "When they suggested it to me, I knew that they had obviously thought of it from the last race, and it made no sense.

"I needed to get as far clear ahead as possible and I was on my way. I was around two seconds ahead and they asked me then to give George DRS, so I had to come off the gas down the straight to get him 0.8s behind.

"He got DRS, but got overtaken, which was going to happen because he was on a one-stop and we were on a two. Then [Sainz] got past him and he was right on my tail, so yeah, not ideal. It made it very hard for the last couple of laps, but I think as a team we've got to be grateful for a fifth and seventh. It's better than a sixth and seventh."

2023-09-26T09:12:43Z dg43tfdfdgfd