Sebastian Vettel joked that Ferrari needs to find “that grip guy” after another subdued display in terms of overall performance from the team.
Ferrari has trailed Mercedes in pure pace at five of this season’s grands prix and on occasion has also slipped behind Red Bull.
It has left its title prospects hanging by a thread, with Vettel already 55 points behind Lewis Hamilton, and Ferrari 118 points adrift of Mercedes, which has won every event.
“It was pretty similar with the last couple of races,” said Vettel in terms of overall grip.
“We had one race where performance was standing out and we were quite strong.
“But I think where we are… I saw that Valtteri [Bottas] was faster but there was no way he was going to pass, as our straight line speed is really good.
“It’s just because overall we are lacking downforce, a weakness that we know. I don’t think the car is as bad as it looks.
“The results should be better here and there but it’s very difficult for us to get the car in the window where it is happy.
“Certainly when we get it in there we’re more competitive but still a way from where we want to be.
“That’s really the key lesson: we need to focus on trying to get the car short-term more in that window.
“Looking forward for the next three, four, five races, obviously make sure we improve the car, put more grip onto the car so that we can go faster, simple as that.
“But that guy seems to hide fairly well! I don’t know exactly where he is right now, so if you find him, or if you’ve got his number, that grip guy, but we’ve been looking for him for a while!
“I don’t think there are any secrets we will be able to unveil. As usual, attention to detail and a lot hard work is the only way to get us up.”
Vettel admitted there was an element of luck in his best result of the campaign in the wake of the Verstappen/Bottas pit lane incident, which left Verstappen with a penalty and Bottas with a suspected puncture.
“It was a good result, but not a good weekend for us,” he added.
“I think we sort of tumbled into second place. So we did everything we could but certainly we didn’t have the pace to put the pressure on and go for a bit more.”