Brawn aiming for consistency
Mercedes Team Principal says they need to match speed to tyre wear
By Mike Wise at Spa. Last Updated: 31/08/12 6:02pm
Ross Brawn is hoping Mercedes can overcome their poor recent form in the closing races of the season, starting at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
The German marque has struggled since the highpoint of its breakthrough victory in China. A nadir was reached just before the summer break in Hungary, where Shanghai winner Nico Rosberg could only manage a solitary point.
Both Rosberg and Michael Schumacher failed to reach the final qualifying session in Budapest, with the latter going on to have a dreadful race: the seven-times World Champion switching off his engine on the grid before picking up a penalty for speeding in the pitlane and eventually retiring.
Schumacher has struggled to finish races all season but Brawn said on Friday that inconsistency has blighted the team, who lie fifth in the Constructors' Championship, as a whole.
Specifically, Brawn explained that Mercedes has yet to fully get a handle on how their W03 car uses its Pirelli tyres - specifically how to find speed whilst also maintaining consistent performance in the rubber.
"I think our season's been improved in many ways over previous years. We've won our first race this year and Michael was fastest in qualifying in Monaco," Brawn said.
"So we've had some highlights but we've not been consistent enough. And I think the consistency has been amplified by the closeness of the cars. There's been a few tenths between cars and often a few tenths has been extremely significant."
Brawn said the team have been more able to make their car's tyres last in recent races but at the expense of a good balance, with both Rosberg and Schumacher struggling to set fast lap times as a result.
Belgian GP - Team principals' conference
"It's a question of finding consistency of balance against tyre consistency and tyre durability. I think at the beginning of the year we had a very quick car but we were damaging the tyres too much," he said.
"We've improved our usage of the tyres; we haven't necessarily taken the performance forward enough and that's what we're focusing on now.
"These challenges - these aspects of the car - all of us here face. We're fighting all the time and if sometimes your car becomes a reference point with no changes, after a period it's not quick enough because other people have improved. So it's a constantly moving target."
Brawn did, however, stress that Mercedes would not switch their full attention to next year's car just yet, adding that a relatively stable rulebook for 2013 meant that any improvements to the W03 might be applied to next season anyway.
"We're still working very hard on this year's car. I think, given the rules haven't changed very much for next season, anything you do this year will be relevant for next year," he said.
"There's still a strong push this year and there probably will be until the end of the season."
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Brawn also paid tribute to Schumacher on what is the latter's 300th Grand Prix weekend.
"I've been very fortunate to be a part of Michael's racing career in Formula 1. There's so many records that Michael's established that it would be extremely difficult for anyone to match," added Brawn, who served as Technical Director at Benetton and Ferrari during Schumacher's title-winning years.
"I think Michael's achieved it not just from his raw ability, which is of course exceptional, but from his attitude and his approach: being part of a team, he's always been very committed but enjoys being part of a team.
"That's why I think he's achieved such consistently good results, because he was able to motivate and incentivise the whole team to achieve results - not just for him but for the other car as well.
"I think he's been, in my view, the most complete racing driver of my generation."