Last Of The Dice Rollers

Yesterday, Mercedes became the final major team to officially unveil their 2012 car. In their third season of full team ownership since their withdrawal from full team rights in the 1950s, the German car manufacturer will be looking to make the big leap to the top step of the podium. Having been in the position of fourth-best team for the previous two seasons behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, it is a this year when the grid await a break-through.

Fourth in the standings is no easy task, but when you’re one of the best-known brand names on the planet, you want to show you mean business. Being beaten by a drinks company is not in the script, and the team feel that they are on the right track to be consistent winners.

“We are in the building-up process” proclaimed Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug. “We are still a young team, we need to learn and I think our learning process is underway. My feeling is we are heading in the right direction. To beat Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren-Mercedes is quite a task, but ultimately we want to achieve that. It takes time and a lot of effort, but we are working very hard and ultimately we can achieve it.”

Rosberg hoping for greatness

As the team’s leading driver, Nico Rosberg has pressure on his shoulders. At 26 years old, he is at the age where champions are made. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have  won the World Driver’s Championship twice by 26, with Vettel yet to reach that age. Rosberg is aware that he cannot let loyalty stand in his way of success, and sees it is now time for his team to perform in a bigger and better fashion:

“For me it is very clear that we need to start our progress on the upward trend now. Things are working better, people are working better together and the whole atmosphere is much more positive now. There is a good feeling in the factory, so you can feel the upward trend is now starting. What that will be in terms of results and positions I don’t know yet, but it needs to be progress. I am confident that we can make that happen.”

Mercedes' 2012 car - the W03

The new car – titled the W03 – did a brief test at the weekend to ensure everything was running smoothly, and the son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg is confident that reliability should not be a major issue:

“We did quite a few laps on Sunday, and the impressions were positive in general but difficult in terms of pace to get a real feel,” he said. “It was more just the general impression of the car, how it was put together – the general feel of it”. It is agile, easy to drive, and looking at it also, everything is working as expected, so generally it is a much more positive start. That was the first impression.”

43 years old and still eager for the challenge

It seems strange to think of a 7-time champion as having to play second-fiddle to a younger man, but that has been Michael Schumacher’s place at the team, behind Rosberg. 2010 didn’t show much as the comeback merchant lacked on pace but last season was a better showing, showing much better in the races. He is in the mood for fighting and is more ready than ever to attack:

“For my part, I am eager to fight again, looking forward to the new season, and I can’t wait for it to begin. Obviously, we will only see over the next couple of weeks how big the step is that we have made, but I can say already that the guys and girls back in the factories at Brackley and Brixworth were brilliant in putting in so much effort. Already last week, when we were driving the F1 W03 for the very first time, it instantly gave us good feedback and sensations. Starting today, we will work intensively to make it a competitive runner.”

The Englishman is sure of more to come

Leading member of the Benetton and Ferrari teams with whom Schumacher was so successful, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is confident that the squad can learn from their previous experiences and must up their game for the upcoming season. He also targeted podiums as the goal, a place they had not set upon once in 2011:

We have to go forward,” he said. “None of us are happy with a recurring fourth place. That is not why any of us are here. We have to go forward, but I am quietly confident with the strength we have got, the resources we have got and the team we are building that we can do that. We are definitely ready to go for podiums. Any team that has not won the world championship has to look at how it can improve, how it can strengthen and how it can achieve better results.

Even if you win the world championship you still look at that. And if you are not winning races and not winning a championship then perhaps you have to look at even stronger improvements. But the key is not to ruin what you already have to build something stronger, and that is what we have been very focused on.”

Over the previous seasons, the championship has been a battle between Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. In the W03 car, Mercedes are confident to at last add their name to that list.

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