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The story so far - Mercedes GP's mid-season report 19 Jul 2010

Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 10 July 2010 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 10 July 2010 Nico Rosberg (GER) celebrates his third podium of the season with Mercedes. British Grand Prix, Sunday, 11 July 2010. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Practice Day, Silverstone, England, Friday, 9 July 2010 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Race, Valencia Spain, Sunday, 27 June 2010

On paper it was a dream team - the clout of Mercedes backing, the technical and managerial genius of Ross Brawn, the young driving talent of Nico Rosberg and the living legend that is Michael Schumacher. With such expectation, anything less than perfection would have been disappointing, and the reality of Mercedes GP’s first season has been far from perfect. While fourth in the championship standings isn’t bad going for a ‘newcomer’, and there are still positives aplenty, they have less than half the points of leading team McLaren and have little hope of retaining their Brawn-won titles of 2009. Ouch! Here’s the story of their campaign so far…

Mercedes GP
World championship points: 126
Best qualifying result: 2nd (x1)
Best race result: 3rd (x3)

It was all so exciting. Long-term McLaren partners, Mercedes, buy out 2009 title-winning Brawn GP and promptly sign Rosberg from Williams. Then came the announcement that seven-time world champion Schumacher was to come out of retirement to join the team. Expectations for the German team swiftly mushroomed - for Formula One fans it was a tantalising prospect; and for Germany, one of their greatest car manufacturers joining forces with their prized F1 prodigy was thrilling. Surely securing another set of championships would just be a formality? Not so, it seems. Having seemingly underestimated the time it would take for Schumacher to reacclimatise to F1, the strength of their rivals, and how much their ’09 title fight had distracted from their 2010 preparations, the team - and its legion of fans - were in for frustration. The biggest blow would be hard to pin down, but it would be fair to say that seeing qualifying-king Schumacher down in 15th on the Valencia grid smarted, especially as it was on the back of a heavily-upgraded car, which came after Brawn admitted they had initially got their weight-distribution calculations wrong. Of course there have been successes, most notably Rosberg’s podium finishes in Malaysia, China and Great Britain, and his second-place grid slot at Sepang. Plus it’s worth remembering that the team are trying. They are continually upgrading the MGP W01, it’s just that there is something holding the car - and thus its talented drivers - back. Some question whether it’s the same tyre warm-up issue that afflicted the Brawn during the later stages of 2009. Whatever the stumbling block, there will come a time when they must pragmatically call it a day on their 2010 car and focus on their 2011 challenger. When they do, the rest of the grid had better watch out - remember what they achieved (in their previous guise of Brawn) last year after writing off their 2008 season early.

Battle of the team mates - Nico Rosberg v Michael Schumacher
Qualifying: Rosberg (8-2)
Race: Rosberg (8-2) - Schumacher retired in Malaysia
Points: Rosberg 90, Schumacher 36

Schumacher’s struggles, and Rosberg’s achievements, have been well-documented and just a cursory glance at their statistics from this season speaks volumes. It’s certainly been tougher to climb back on the saddle, and get the most from a car that doesn’t seem to suit his driving style, than the seven-time champion ever expected. And while he seems remarkably chipper for one under such pressure, the frustration must prey on him. That’s not to say we haven’t had fleeting glimpses of past glories. For example, at May’s Spanish Grand Prix, when he finished fourth after fighting his way through the field, he looked back in rude health. Rosberg, meanwhile, has also endured some disappointing performances, although it’s fair to say they don’t come close to those of his team mate’s. The younger German has had the added boon of a car that suits him better, and the confidence boost that goes hand in hand with beating one of the sport’s greatest drivers whenever he gets the better of Schumacher. But don’t rule out Rosberg or Schumacher clinching a victory or two over the remainder of the season - if fate is on their side, they have the talent to capitalise on the flaws of their competitors. An eighth crown for Schumacher may now look impossible (in 2010 at least), but if there’s one thing he’s still got from the old days it’s his bullet-proof determination.

In summary - with 387 points theoretically up for grabs they are still very much in contention for the title. But with a world of work left to bring the MGP W01 closer to its rivals - and indeed its championship winning Brawn predecessor - is it time for the team to shelve their 2010 campaign and focus on 2011?