Lewis Hamilton believes his hydraulics had failed before he ran wide at Turn 1 during qualifying for the German Grand Prix.
Although a heavy clout across the kerbs on the exit initially appeared to have caused the hydraulic issues that stopped him during Q1 to leave him 14th on the grid, the world champion says his steering had already lost power on the entry.
Asked by Sky if the kerb strike had caused the problem, Hamilton said: "No, we use the kerb the same every lap. We got to the kerb and just before the kerb the steering broke, so that was the issue."
Despite coming from the back of the field to finish second at Silverstone a fortnight ago, the Briton is not convinced a repeat charge is on the cards this time out.
"At a track like this not really, no," he said. "This is one of the worst ones for overtaking. I will do what I can from there."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suspected that Hamilton's hydraulics had broken after he hit the kerb, but he was awaiting a full investigation by the team once they had the car back.
"The issue was that we seem to have damaged a bit on the car jumping over the kerb and that caused an hydraulic leak, but the car is just coming back so we need to check whether that was really the case," Wolff told Sky.
"Then, obviously we are not good enough on pace to make it onto pole."
Although Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was able to secure a spot on the front row of the grid, Wolff said Mercedes was lacking against Ferrari on both the car and engine front.
"It was a mega lap, particularly the last sector," he said. "He put it all together but it was at the moment not good enough performance wise. We just need to get the car and the engine on to a higher level.
"At the moment we are losing on the straights but I don't want to sound sore about it. We just need to improve."