A driver who became renowned as ‘Mr Saturday' during his time with Williams given his sterling qualifying performances has lost his way recently over one lap.
After out-qualifying team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the first three races this season and four of the first five, Russell has found himself on the receiving end to the seven-time F1 champion in the last four grands prix.
During Friday evening's session at the Red Bull Ring, Russell never appeared at ease or on the pace with his W14, leaving him down in 11th on the starting grid for Sunday's race.
“Just not quick enough,” was Russell's blunt assessment of what transpired. “From the first laps in practice, I just haven't got the right feel with the car.
“It's difficult when you go into a sprint race weekend, you don't have a lot of time to make some changes.
“Obviously, P11 is not the best starting position but we've had some good results from further down the field so far this year, so all is not lost.
“But I need to understand what's going on at the moment. I'm struggling a bit, especially on Saturday.”
As to whether he can rescue anything over what is the second sprint weekend of six this year, he added: “I think so.
“In Baku (for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix), I qualified 11th on Friday and fourth (for the sprint) on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, you don't come away with a lot of points when it's that way around. I think the race will offer a little bit more than we saw in Baku, but yeah, not easy.”
Although Hamilton salvaged some degree of respect for Mercedes with a fifth-place grid slot, even that was below what Wolff had anticipated coming into the weekend.
“Overall underwhelming,” was Wolff's equally frank judgment of the qualifying session.
“We came with expectations that we would be fighting for P2, three, with the Ferraris, the Aston Martins, and we underperformed
“Obviously racing is only on Sunday so we'll see.”
With Ferrari sporting upgrades on its car and performing well, Wolff is hoping the next update on the W14 for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone next weekend will have a similar impact.
“You see that the time gaps are not huge,” added Wolff. “You're talking two-tenths, three-tenths up and down, and it makes a big difference.
Despite his fifth position on the grid, Hamilton was equally as disappointed as Wolff with how his car performed.
“It is not P1 but I will take it and try and work on it,” said Hamilton.
“Our race pace is possibly around third fastest. The Red Bulls and Ferraris are quicker, and maybe the Astons, too, so maybe we are fourth. I am not quite sure exactly. We are just trying to focus on getting around as quickly as we can.
“Our car, in general, has never really suited this circuit, and it showed again. It was a really tough session but we got through it, thank God.
“We will try to do better in sprint qualifying, depending on the weather and the temperatures, and then from fifth on Sunday, that is at least a good, strong position to start from.”
The sprint shootout starts at noon local time, (8pm AEST), with the sprint race at 4.30pm (12.30am AEST), with rain forecast throughout the day to spice up proceedings.