Early rumblings are coming from the Mercedes camp that the team is already beginning to shift its focus towards the 2011 season. Team principal Ross Brawn recently told ESPNF1, “By mid-season, we must look to put the F-duct in and catch up to the top. If it is worthwhile to keep attacking then we will do it, if not we will concentrate everything on 2011.”
The Merc squad has been trailing markedly behind the Red Bulls and McLarens so far this year, and have been recently been on a par with Ferrari, but the latter case seems to have as much to do with Ferrari’s slip backwards as it does Mercedes’ gain.
Team McLaren, of course, has made effective use of its F-duct device on high speed tracks this year, and rival teams have struggled to copy the device, without showing dramatically positive results. The other top teams, i.e. Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes have all experimented with their own versions of the F-duct innovation, but by and large their efforts in this area have been inconclusive. Mercedes in particular have indicated that the device has been something less than an unqualified success.
That being the case, it seems surprising that Brawn would claim that the team’s focus for the balance of the season will be predicated on the success or failure of their development of their own version of the F-duct.
But Ross Brawn is hardly a tyro in making these decisions. It should be noted that it was Ross Brawn’s decision to employ a similar leapfrog technique during the 2008 season, when the team was still badged Honda, that helped set up the team for its world-beating success in 2009, under the temporary Brawn banner.
While the leapfrog strategy is no longer a novelty for underperforming teams, the logic behind it has been amplified in the current in-season test ban environment. If Mercedes were to concentrate on development for 2011, they would be able to treat each of the remaining race venues as a three day test session. This would give them substantially more test time than they had available during the officially sanctioned pre-season test window in January and February.
Mercedes pilot Michael Schumacher, who has won seven titles with Brawn, and certainly understands the way Brawn operates, seems to concur with “the Maestro.” The German ace recently told Autosport, “You think in terms of the championship, that’s what is my aim and my focus. But then at one point you understand that your package is where it is and from there on you have to do a certain program and process and that’s what we are going through. The year is still long. I don’t think on my side that I’m really in a position to win the championship, it’s more building up and organizing things for what happens from next year onwards. But you never know, it’s still a long year with many points to give.”