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One step forward, two steps back - Mercedes’ mid-season report 27 Aug 2012

Race winner Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03 celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 15 April 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 26 May 2012 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, Thursday, 19 July 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 6 July 2012

Mercedes started the season with a lot to prove and despite claiming their first comeback victory in China, courtesy of Nico Rosberg, they still have a fair way to go. Two years on from their purchase of the title-winning Brawn squad, the German car manufacturer is yet to emulate the same heights or even establish an entrenched foothold at the front of the field. Instead they are slipping back into the midfield. One win, fifth in the standings, and an increasingly frustrated seven-time world champion is simply not enough to mollify the team’s ambitions and the pressure is on for the Silver Arrows to make this project work…

Season in numbers
Constructors’ standings:
5th, 106 points
Drivers’ standings: Nico Rosberg (6th, 77 points), Michael Schumacher (12th, 29 points)
Highest 2012 qualifying: 1st (Rosberg, China)
Highest 2012 finish: 1st (Rosberg, China)

Car
A strong pre-season for the F1 W03 was matched by a strong start to the championship, topped off by Rosberg’s win in Shanghai. But since that high - and apart from Schumacher’s podium in Valencia - the team’s performances have been tapering off. Any title hopes these dark horses may have held have been all but forgotten, given the 83-point deficit to fourth-placed Ferrari and the mammoth 140-point gap to current leaders Red Bull. Team principal Ross Brawn had already professed to being unhappy with the car’s development curve, but after losing approximately half a second a lap to the frontrunners at the recent Silverstone, Hockenheim and Hungaroring rounds - and with both drivers failing to make Q3 in Hungary - the outlook appears even gloomier. Tyre issues are partly to blame, as is the fitful nature of the car which enjoys some tracks and hates others. There’s plenty of work to be done.

Team
After recruiting Bob Bell, Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa to bolster their technical team over the course of last year, Mercedes have plenty of brain power at their disposal. They also have the wealth and experience of a massive car manufacturer on their side. It’s an enviable position but it’s also one that brings its own distinctive pressure. As certain elements of the news-starved F1 media have been keen to point out over the summer break, there’s no forgetting that the Formula One project is just a by-product - albeit one taken very seriously - and one that might have a limited shelf life if the works team continue to struggle behind customers like McLaren and occasionally even Force India.

Drivers
In Nico Rosberg and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, Mercedes have one of the strongest - and most ambitious - line-ups on the grid. And both drivers have delivered on track so far this year. Schumacher has enjoyed his best season since returning to the sport and has gone a long way to proving any detractors wrong. Rosberg, meanwhile, took that critical first win and has cemented his reputation as a talent, qualifying strongly and scoring points in eight of 11 rounds. It’s not all positive news though. Schumacher has borne the brunt of the F1 W03’s mechanical woes, retiring six times. It’s a far cry from the bullet-proof reliability of his Ferrari days, but only rarely has Schumacher let his frustration get the better of him. His fastest time in Monaco qualifying and his podium in Valencia proved that when his car is working well, the 43-year old still has all the verve and vigour necessary to take the fight to the younger generation.

What they say: “We are clearly not as competitive as we want to be. We need to find more performance and lap time.” Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal

What we say: The excellent inroads they made at the start of the season have tailed off. Mercedes must turn things around before they hit a dead end.

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