While McLaren may still be suffering something of a hangover from its successful 2008 Formula One campaign, the problems have little to do with technical partner Mercedes-Benz, and driver Heikki Kovalainen suggests that this weekend's German Grand Prix provides the ideal time to pay tribute to the Three Pointed Star's efforts.
With reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton not yet into the top ten in points, and his Finnish team-mate five adrift of the Briton on a meagre four-point haul, McLaren has already discounted any hope of taking a title this season, but Kovalainen is determined that Mercedes should be recognised for the part it has played in the team's success.
“Coming to Germany is the perfect time to pay tribute to the efforts of everyone at Mercedes-Benz," he insisted, "Their engines are probably the most powerful and most reliable in the sport and their KERS is also fantastic. Mercedes-Benz has played such a big role in the success of our team, so I'm really hoping to have a strong race in front of all our supportive fans at our second home race of the season. Myself, Lewis and the rest of the team are working hard to develop this car – it's a long process, but we are all pulling together and we're hopeful of making some further steps soon.”
Ironically, Mercedes stands a good chance of success at the Nurburgring courtesy of its new relationship with the Brawn team, where a victory for either Jenson Button or Rubens Barrichello would maintain a winning streak that the marque has established in its homeland over the past two seasons. That success would tie in nicely with a major milestone in Mercedes' history, which is already planned to be celebrated this weekend.
“We finished the previous grand prix at the Nürburgring in 2007 as winners, as well as last year's Santander German Grand Prix at Hockenheim," confirmed vice-president of motorsport Norbert Haug, "This year, we will start without a chance of winning [with McLaren], because our work of improving the car did not bring the desired success.
“However, it is at the Nürburgring that the Silver Arrows were born and we will commemorate their 75th anniversary with a parade on the racetrack and an exhibition at the paddock entrance to present their unique history to every Nürburgring visitor, as well as to the world's TV viewers.”
Hamilton has disappointing memories of his previous F1 trip to the Nurburgring, where a qualifying accident - the legacy of a failed wheel nut - saw him taken to hospital before having to battle his way through the field in a wet-dry event, only to finish outside the points when tactical gambles failed to pay off.
“The last time we raced at the Nürburgring was in 2007, and I remember I had a tough afternoon battling through from the back of the field to finish just outside the points," the Briton recalled, "While we aren't expecting any major upgrades for this weekend, I'm still looking forward to the race. It's an honour to be part of the Silver Arrows and, while our results haven't recently shown it, we're still pushing incredibly hard and are all hopeful of moving closer to the front before the end of this difficult season.”
However bad the season has been so far, though, team principal Martin Whitmarsh is confident that the usual level of support for the 'home' team will be evident at the 'Ring where, despite the presence of BMW Sauber, the majority of the banners and vocal support is directed at the silver machines.
“The Santander German Grand Prix is our team's second home race of the year, and having had such a fantastic and close relationship with Mercedes-Benz for 15 years means we meet many old friends in Germany," he commented, "We really enjoy the fantastic support we receive – not only from the many thousands of Mercedes-Benz employees who attend the race, but also from the hugely vocal crowd that always plays such a large part in making the atmosphere at a German racetrack so unique.
“While we can't expect to match our previous record in Germany, where we've won the race for the past two seasons, we're still pushing hard to develop MP4-24 into a more competitive proposition. Make no mistake, we're hugely proud of having the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star on the front of our cars – and nothing would make us prouder than getting back to the front again as soon as we possibly can.”