Key figures in the Mercedes GP camp are refraining from talking up their chances of rediscovering the 2009 form that took the team (under its Brawn GP guise) to a title double-header, with team CEO Nick Fry believing the squad will be “in reasonable shape” by the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Despite having each driver enjoy a surprise stint at the top of the testing timesheets over the course of the three four-day test sessions conducted in Spain so far, the new W02 chassis has not shown much in the way of sparkling form during its early running.
The team is seemingly pinning much of its hopes on a significant aero upgrade that it will bring to the fourth and final pre-season test, set to occur next week at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. It is believed that the revisions will include changes to the W02’s exhaust layout, front wing, barge boards and sidepods.
In explaining the team’s current position to the Reuters news agency, Fry said: “The car did have some cooling issues and has been running with a very sub-optimal cooling package and aerodynamic package, and that is [worth] a significant amount of [lap] time.
“[We also went into testing with] a slightly different strategy of having what we called the ‘basic’ car to start with and what we think will be a significant upgrade for the first race. So we knew we were going to be not the quickest, let’s put it that way.
“We are not panicking, we have a plan, we’re sticking to it and I think that we will be in a reasonable shape by the time we get to Australia.”
Team boss Ross Brawn expressed similar sentiments, believing that the upgrade needs to bring an extra second per lap in overall pace for the W02 to have serious hopes of mixing it at the front of the grid.
“We’ve got to find a second in the upgrade, which we think we can do but you never know what the others are going to do as well,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Everybody’s going to have new bits at Barcelona. If somebody does come through with a radical innovation that none of the other teams have thought about then it can change things, but we’ve set out our plan and we’ll know when we get to Melbourne whether our plan was right. It’s fun to speculate at the moment, but it’s very difficult.”
Of greater concern are rumours that the redesign to the team’s exhaust layout actually stems from the W02 failing to pass the initial mandatory crash tests set out by the FIA.
Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug has issued a stern ‘No comment’ when asked about this.
[Original image via LAT]