Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has tipped Michael Schumacher to pull off a surprise in 2011.
Brawn said: “I think Michael can surprise a few people this year because he’s had a much better preparation.
“He’s now worked with the team for a year, knows all the engineering staff, knows how the team works and he’s had a good winter test.
“I think the experience that perhaps some of the other drivers had with tyres and other things has changed now with different tyres. So I’m quietly confident Michael’s going to make a big impression this year.”
He added: “I think the strengths of Michael are his commitment and determination. Obviously behind that has to be the skill and talent. But his commitment and determination is unchanged from when he won his world championships – in fact, maybe even more determined.”
Brawn also said Nico Rosberg is ready to score his first Grand Prix win:
“Nico came very close to winning a race last year. We were in a much better position in the beginning of the year and we picked up at the end of the year. But certainly at the beginning of the year there was an opportunity for Nico to win a race and I think this year he can win a race.
“I think we need to cross that boundary with Nico, get his first race win behind him, and then I think you’ll see Nico open up an awful lot. I’m very optimistic about the potential of Nico in the future. He’s shown great skill in the past year, he works very well with the team and like Michael is very committed and dedicated.”
Mercedes appeared to make a step forward in the final pre-season test. Brawn explained their approach to testing and developing the W02:
“We’re running KERS this year which for our team – our chassis team – is a first. We’ve never run KERS before, we don’t have any experience with KERS. And of course we’ve got the tyre situation.
“So it was very important that we had a car running at the first test in a representative form. You can’t put KERS on your old car, you have to design a car around KERS.
“So we wanted to get the car out running, we froze the aerodynamic specification early last year and we got that bodywork made, put it on the car and went out. We gave the aerodynamicists and the other designers the longest time possible to try and get the best out of these regulations. Because of the regulation changes, we wanted to get the most out of it.
“One area of great interest was using the exhaust gas in the most beneficial way. We’ve seen a lot of cars now with exhaust pipes in very interesting places. That was an area which we wanted to do a lot of work on before we made our decision.
“So it was to give us early running, make sure we got KERS sorted, make sure we understood the tyres, got the basics done and then come for the last with a major aerodynamic upgrade, with all those other issues hopefully sorted.
“I think we’ve gone a long way in those areas. KERS we now understand. Reliability, we did two race distances at the last test. We’re know understanding what the tyres are sensitive to. So we’ve done all the ground work and now we need to put the icing on the cake and really start to get the performance.”
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