The Silver Arrows has to settle for the second row on Saturday as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel claimed pole for the Mexico Grand Prix.
'Our long-run pace is definitely better'
Lewis Hamilton was third fastest, with his best run coming on his first run in Q3. The three-time champ clocked a 1:16.934 on his opening flier, but failed to improve on his second lap, ending up 0.446s adrift.
"Pole position was the goal today, but it wasn't meant to be," said Lewis. "It was a difficult session and I think it's been a difficult weekend overall.
"It is very slippery here; and some of the issues we have with the car are a little bit highlighted by that. I gave it everything I had, but the gap to the front was too big.
"Our long-run pace is definitely better than our qualifying pace, so I'm not worried about that. But you need a big delta to overtake here, so track position is important.
"It is a long way down to Turn 1, so we should have some fun tomorrow. I'm hoping I'm able to move forward at the start. Afterwards it should be a one-stop strategy.
"The crowd looks incredible, there's a lot of energy. It's such a spectacle from above; I saw the camera from the helicopter. So winning here on Mexican soil would be pretty neat."
'The incident with Max ruined my first lap in Q3'
Valtteri Bottas will start Sunday's race alongside Lewis in fourth. The Finn had to abandon his first run without setting a time after coming across a slow Max Verstappen at the exit of Turn 12.
But Valtteri responded strongly, posting a 1:16.958 to jump to P4, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
"Our qualifying wasn't good enough; we thought we could fight for the pole," said Valtteri. "We definitely struggled a bit compared to at least one of the Ferraris and one of the Red Bulls, for some reason they found quite a bit of lap time for Q3.
"The incident with Max ruined my first lap in Q3; I just couldn't get back to the normal line for braking. However, I'm still optimistic for the race. We had good long runs yesterday and we'll have a strong car tomorrow.
"As a team, we're starting from the second row, and it's such a long run into Turn 1 here. Hopefully we can have a good start and use the slipstream to our advantage. It should be an interesting race."
'Now we have to look forward to a long race'
Despite missing out on pole, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team boss Toto Wolff says a second row lockout is a sign that the team is making progress at high downforce tracks.
"First of all, congratulations to Sebastian on a very impressive pole position," said Toto. "We have locked out the second row this afternoon and, to be honest, I'm reasonably satisfied with that.
"We knew that it would be difficult for us here, running at a high downforce circuit, so the result is okay with that in mind; it feels like we have taken a step forward in these conditions compared to recent races.
"There were big gaps between team-mates today so it is nice to see our drivers so close together, especially as Valtteri only had one opportunity to set a time in Q3. That shows he is bouncing back in the right way from a difficult run of races.
"Now we have to look forward to a long race tomorrow. Lewis had a promising long run during second practice, so there are still plenty of opportunities open for us to take."
'The long run performance looks very strong'
While James Allison was disappointed that Valtteri's opening lap was spoilt, the Silver Arrows Technical Director is expecting a good scarp in the race on Sunday.
"Although we felt that we were in the hunt heading into qualifying, we found ourselves on the back foot in all three sessions with a car that was not quite on the same pace as the Red Bull and Ferrari," explained James. "Nonetheless, Lewis and Valtteri did a strong job to put both cars on the second row of the grid.
"It was disappointing for Valtteri that he lost his best lap in Q3 as a result of being blocked but we know from our practice running, and from Lewis in particular, that the long run performance looks very strong. There will be all manner of opportunity tomorrow to make good on the disappointment of today."