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Is Mercedes Really Off the Pace?

The Mercedes W01

Mercedes motorsports boss Norbert Haug has said that he doesn’t expect Mercedes GP to be battling for podiums at the outset of the season.  As reported on ESPNF1, Haug said, “In my opinion, we will not challenge for the podium in the first few races, but we will definitely show up afterward.  Judging our competitiveness for the first couple of races, my impression is that we are not quite where we want to be and I would not see our team in the role of favourites. Having said that, I am fully convinced that the whole team and our drivers Nico [Rosberg] and Michael are fully prepared to get on top of our job and fulfil our targets which are winning races and fighting for world championships.”

While both Mercedes drivers, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg have previously expressed conservative opinions about the competitiveness of the Mercedes W01, they both subsequently became more optimistic after the final pre-season test in Barcelona.

Rosberg, for his part, said, “We did have some concerns that we were not able to find the right direction to extract the maximum potential from the car, but by working hard we were able to find our way and ended testing on a high,” he said. “We also have a good upgrade coming for Bahrain which should develop the car further and so I am quite optimistic that we will do well. Bahrain is a track which I really enjoy so it should be a good start to the season all in all.”

Meanwhile, Schumacher initially echoed Norbert Haug’s sentiments, but later revised his opinion.  As reported in Autosport, the German ace said after his Barcelona tests, “Yesterday I was a little bit pessimistic before I studied the data. I mentioned it after not having studied the data, afterward it looks much more reasonable than I thought.  This was just initial feeling, but it looks like maybe we were running more fuel than others yesterday and that’s why the time didn’t look so good. Looking at the results and the data, it looks very reasonable – not too bad.”

Ross Brawn has indicated that a major upgrade is scheduled for deployment at the season-opener in Bahrain.  Foremost in the upgrade package will be a new diffuser, which the team is hoping will provide a sizable boost to the car’s overall performance.

Is Mercedes truly off the pace, or are they sandbagging?  One has to suspect that the speed we’ve seen is legitimate, and that the team hasn’t been holding back.  Last year, when the they raced under the Brawn banner, they didn’t attempt to disguise heir speed, and it became quickly apparent that, in the early part of the season, at any rate, the Brawn was the class of the field.  One doesn’t get that impression this year.

Image by f1photos.org, licensed through Creative Commons.

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