The recently-rebranded Mercedes Grand Prix team will not be rushed into making a decision on its second driver for 2010, despite speculation surrounding its pursuit of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher intensifying.
Although the team has made no secret of its desire to pair the Ferrari favourite with already-signed Nico Rosberg, CEO Nick Fry has admitted that an announcement before Christmas is now unlikely.
"We are working on it, as you might expect," he confirmed to 422race.com
, "We have nothing to say at the moment, we might say something before Christmas, but it's more likely to be at the beginning of January."
Fry also insisted that Schumacher was just one potential target and repeated the claim that Mercedes was not
fixated on finding an all-German line-up, following rumours that 2009 world champion Jenson Button's departure was dictated as much by nationality as it was by his financial demands. Button has since signed with former Mercedes partner McLaren - where he will partner Lewis Hamilton - while the new 'works' team is rumoured to be considering a £20m salary to lure Schumacher into the fold [see story here
"Michael Schumacher?" Fry continued, "We are discussing things with a number of different drivers, three or four. Nationality has literally nothing to do with this at all. Mercedes said it would be nice to have a driver who was German and we got that already with Nico. It wasn't a big deal from the start and it's completely irrelevant to
Instead of nationality, Fry insisted that it would be more important for Mercedes to net a line-up that reflected the experience enjoyed by predecessor Brawn GP when it paired Button with Rubens Barrichello. The 2009 line-up, inherited from Honda and retained despite interest in Bruno Senna, was a vital component when the BGP001 proved to be a competitive car, bringing eight race wins and both world titles.
"I think we learned this year that it's important to have two drivers capable of scoring points in every single race," Fry admitted, "The reason we won the constructors' championship is because we had that. Both drivers did a sensational job and they were very similar to each other. We knocked in the points in every single race or virtually so, and we need that [in 2010]. With the lack of testing, it's very difficult to expect a younger driver to do that so, clearly, we'll hire some people with F1 experience."
Schumacher aside, the likes of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica - despite the Pole having a contract with Renault - have been mentioned in connection with a move to Mercedes, but neither would be able to bring the experience of winning races possessed by the most successful man in F1. The former BMW Sauber pairing has one win between them, courtesy of Kubica's 2008 success in Canada, while Rosberg has yet to break his duck, having spent his entire F1 career at Williams. Fry, however, remains unconcerned about the young German's potential.
"I think Nico is a race winner," he claimed, "He's not won races yet, but neither had Jenson until he won with us in 2006. Give him a very good car and I think Nico will flower, especially under Ross [Brawn]'s tutelage.
"I'm hopeful we'll give him a very good car next year. Possibly, he didn't have the best car in the last couple of years, but what he has done is accumulate a very large amount of experience, which is very attractive to us. He is still very young, has three years of experience in F1, there is no doubt he has got the speed - he has the genetic structure and, with Ross coaching him, I think he can be a race winner, undoubtedly."