Mercedes pushed Lewis Hamilton too far during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the team's head of strategy James Vowles has admitted.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton finished fourth in Baku, with team-mate George Russell claiming third, but called the race the "most painful" of his career after suffering severe back pain throughout.
Hamilton's discomfort, which saw him struggle to exit his car after finishing, was caused by the team's W13 car porpoising – bouncing unevenly – and led team principal Toto Wolff to initially suggest the 37-year-old could miss the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix.
While Hamilton has since quelled those fears by saying he "wouldn't miss it for the world", Vowles said the team had pushed him too far in the last race and could not afford to do so again.
"[Lewis] is an elite athlete that will push the bounds of endurance of himself and the car", he told Mercedes' YouTube channel. "That's what Formula One drivers do, that's what makes them exceptional.
"On this occasion, though, we pushed the package and our drivers too far, we are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can't do that again.
"Our drivers are not the only ones suffering, you will see in the media a number of comments from a number of drivers who are equally in discomfort and pain. And we have a responsibility now to make sure that this doesn't carry on."
Having won each of the last eight F1 constructors' championships, Mercedes sit third in the current standings, trailing leaders Red Bull by 118 points eight races into the 2022 campaign.
Back to it. Lewis in full Montreal prep mode - at the factory and on the sim this week. pic.twitter.com/hUZpJpWgKB— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 15, 2022
While Vowles acknowledged Red Bull and Ferrari remain the "benchmark", he believes Mercedes could narrow the gap to the leaders in Montreal.
"We didn't expect perhaps to drop back as much as we did in Baku, but that provided a platform to learn from," he added.
"Montreal isn't going to be substantially different to the last two races, I think we will still have a package that isn't at the front on merit. Red Bull and Ferrari will still be the benchmark that we have to compare ourselves to.
"I think though that the large gap that you saw in qualifying in Baku perhaps won't be that big in Montreal – it will be back down from where it was and as we go through all the races from then onwards, I am fairly sure we will find small steps and developments that push us back towards the front."