Mercedes is expecting a "big challenge" at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix as it returns the scene of some of its weakest performances in recent years.
Despite winning 51 of 59 races over the last three seasons, Singapore has proved to be something of a bogey circuit for Mercedes and in 2015 it was comprehensively outperformed by Ferrari and Red Bull in an otherwise dominant year. A hard-fought victory last year saw Nico Rosberg beat Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo by less than half a second -- Mercedes' smallest winning margin of the season -- but with Ferrari a much bigger threat this year, team boss Toto Wolff is expecting his team to struggle.
"Identifying clearly our strengths and our weaknesses has been a strength of our team in recent seasons," Wolff said. "As we have pushed to become better and stronger in every area, we have put the finger in the wound in order to understand the root causes of both our good performances and the bad ones.
"In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win last year. But notwithstanding that success, this is a circuit we have found difficult to master with its combination of short, sharp corners, relatively short straights and bumpy surface. And we head to Asia this time round with the expectation that we have a big challenge ahead of us."
Mercedes arrives in Singapore following back-to-back victories at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, but the balance of success this year has often been tipped by how well a car is suited to a circuit. Ferrari has been the team to beat at high-downforce circuits like Singapore and Wolff also believes a resurgent Red Bull will also be a threat.
"So far this year, we have seen the pendulum swing according to circuit type. On the surface, Singapore is the kind of circuit that should favour both Ferrari and Red Bull. Both have shown strong performance on low-speed circuits demanding maximum downforce, and we have found life more difficult at those places in 2017.
"Sometimes, characteristics like this are simply in the DNA of a car. Nevertheless we learned a lot from our struggles in Monaco, raised our level of performance significantly in Hungary and we have made good progress in understanding what we need to do in order to get the most from the chassis."