Mercedes pour cold water on 'tortoise and hare' strategy but keep cards close to chest
"I don't think either of our drivers are tortoises," says Brawn
By James Galloway in Monaco. Last Updated: 26/05/13 7:55am
Ross Brawn insists Mercedes haven't considered adopting a classic 'tortoise and hare' approach with their frontrow-starting drivers for Sunday's Monaco GP and will simply "see what develops" during the course of the race as they bid to convert pole into race victory at the fourth attempt in 2013.
With the Brackley team's second successive frontrow lockout already widely anticipated after Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton set the fastest two times in Thursday practice, paddock speculation on Saturday morning had already centered on the approach Mercedes would take to race in an attempt to take advantage of Monaco's famously tight confines and avoid the alarming slumps in position they have suffered in each of the last three races.
After the all-Silver Arrows frontrow duly materialised on Saturday afternoon the question of race strategy was raised with Brawn and principally whether or not Mercedes, provided their drivers held position through the opening lap, would instruct the second car on the road to effectively act as a roadblock to the cars behind to allow the leading driver to build a comfortable lead.
However, while pouring cold water on that particular notion by pointing out that neither Rosberg nor Hamilton could be classed as 'tortoises', Brawn otherwise remained coy on how Mercedes might attempt to protect their expected track position at the front.
"Obviously the tortoise and the hare strategy is one that people speculate on but I don't think either of our drivers are tortoises!" he said.
"We'll let the race run and see what develops and obviously our ambition would be to get a one-two and we will try and achieve that. But I think it's impossible to speculate if we can achieve that and how we might achieve that."
Put to him that the 'tortoise and hare' approach could have particularly alluring merits on the tight and twisty streets, Brawn, whose team was involved in the team orders rows of Malaysia, insisted: "I think if you're thinking along those lines you need to do it before practice - and we haven't done it.
"So we'll let the race develop and as always we'll do what's right for the team leaving the drivers as alone as possible to race each other."
Cunning team strategy or not, Mercedes are still likely to have to display far better tyre degradation than has habitually become the case on other circuits if they are to claim just their second win since returning to F1 team ownership in 2010.
The unique nature of the Monaco circuit, and the fact tyres are exposed to lesser demands around the lap, make it likely that any tyre problems with the W04 won't be as pronounced. Brawn is certainly hopeful the more encouraging long-run pace the team showed in Thursday practice translates to the 78 racing laps on Sunday.
"The tyres have certain characteristics and if you exceed the capacity of the tyre then it can deteriorate very quickly. If you don't, if you manage either through the driver or through the car, you can get a lot more life out of it," he explained.
"It's not linear so if you go five per cent over the limit and you're over the life of the tyre. So you don't' need to improve by a huge margin to get the tyre back into an open area. We've been in a good place a few times this year and we've been in a bad place a few times this year so it's very difficult to predict what you are going to see on a Sunday. You see trends. I think we did make some progress from what I can judge on Thursday - I think the car was better over a long run.
"Whether it's good enough we won't know until tomorrow when we're raced with a race and race conditions and drivers racing each other nose to tail and that will be the measure. But we've put a huge effort in trying to improve the situation and clearly our conversion rate from qualifying to the race is not good enough and that's our priority at the moment."