Brawn: Mercedes out to compete with the best 25 Feb 2011
Hopes that the MGP W02 would lead Mercedes GP back to the front of the field faded as the pre-season tests got underway. A distinct lack of pace and poor reliability suggested 2011 wouldnt be the teams year. However, after wrapping up a successful four-day session at Barcelonas Circuit de Catalunya last weekend, theres a growing sense of optimism at their Brackley factory.
Barcelona was the final test with our launch specification car and we averaged nearly 500km per day, over 50 percent more than our daily average until that point of testing, team principal Ross Brawn told Mercedes GPs official website. It was a good week and we used the opportunity to complete fundamental set-up work, develop our understanding of how to maximise the tyres over a single lap, and to improve our long-run performance.
We have a very good base to build on. Our team is progressing very well and the Silver Arrow is coming together. Our target remains to take a step forward compared to last year and to compete with the best.
Brawn is certainly sounding a lot more confident than he did after the second test finished in Jerez on February 13. Back then the Briton admitted the car was running with several issues, which had adversely affected its performance, and conceded that they needed to improve reliability before they tackled the question of pace.
The biggest challenge for us so far has been a cooling problem, he explained. The short-term modifications that we made to the launch-specification car cost a reasonable amount of performance. The solution has been incorporated into the bodywork design for our upgrade package and will recover that performance before the first race.
You naturally expect to experience faults with a new car and fortunately weve had relatively few of a car-stopping nature so the impact on our programme has not been significant. Our mileage has been good, weve covered 4300kms over the three tests to date and, of course, the more mileage you can achieve, the more opportunities there are to identify any issues and resolve them before the season gets underway.
Barcelona was certainly our best test to date and we have made continued progress since the launch of the MGP W02 in Valencia. The reliability of the car is now better and our upgrade package is coming together well, ready to be on the car for the fourth and final pre-season test in Barcelona.
Brawn was keen to reiterate that it was always the teams plan to launch a comparatively simplistic car before gradually adding pace-improving upgrades. And he is certain the car that takes to the track at the Australian season opener will be noticeably quicker.
We are well aware of the pace of our current car, the distance to the current front runners and the reasons for this, which include the compromises brought about by our cooling issues. Our intention was always to launch the car in a fairly basic specification to allow more time to focus on the upgrade package. This inevitably means that we look further off the pace than people might expect. Knowing all of the facts, I am comfortable with our current position and the developments that we have to come.
The teams 'long game' tactics certainly seem to be taking effect. At Barcelona, for example, the team evaluated different front wings as they completed the final work necessary before deciding on the wing which they will race with when the season starts in Melbourne.
The front wing that we used in Barcelona will not be our final race specification but is moving closer to the wing that we will use in Melbourne, Brawn explained. Our previous front wing was based heavily on the 2010 version, while the wing that we used in Barcelona moved closer to our 2011 design. We used the opportunity to investigate and confirm our direction before finally signing off the race-specification wing.
Mercedes - and their rivals - are expected back on track at Barcelonas Circuit de Catalunya for the final pre-season test from March 9-12. Nico Rosberg is scheduled to drive on the Wednesday and Saturday, with Michael Schumacher driving on the Thursday and Friday.
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