Mercedes GP Petronas boss Ross Brawn has revealed that the decision to focus on next year's Formula One challenger could be taken as early as mid-season if 2010 shows no signs of picking up.
Coming into the current campaign having swept to both titles under the Brawn GP name in 2009, and with Michael Schumacher coming out of retirement to lead the driving line-up alongside Nico Rosberg, the team had hoped to be a contender with its WO1 chassis, but has found itself chasing Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren at most races - and Renault at others as well - and Brawn admits that hard decisions will have to be taken before too long.
"Work has already started on next year's car," the Briton confirmed to the official F1 website, "It's obviously [a case of] balancing your resources on this year's car against your resources on next year's car - and there is a balance at the moment. But, of course, the balance changes depending on your circumstances. We are still putting maximum effort into this year's programme as we want to win races and we want to see where this brings us.
"[However], I am following the 2011 car programme now and, for sure, we will reach a point where there are decisions to be made on which side we focus on. Then we will make that decision based on where we are. I think, by mid-season, you have to recognise if this is a championship year or whether you should focus on the next car - but that is a few races away yet."
Brawn admits that he is not as surprised as some observers that Mercedes is not leading the way in 2010, pointing out its relative lack of success in the second half of 2009, when eventual champion Jenson Button failed to add to his six early victories, and Rubens Barrichello managed only two wins against the emerging Red Bull threat.
"This year is more of an evolution," Brawn insisted, "When you look at our performance at the end of last season, we were competitive, but not necessarily the strongest team. The restructuring of the team, the events of the past six months, brought a lot of stability and that is coming through now.
"Maybe with the team that we had fighting for the championship last year, all the considerations that we had took the edge slightly off of what we need to do this year. We are determined firstly to make sure that we get this car back up to the right performance, and that we have a much stronger effort for next season."
The team's desire to repeat the success of 2009 in 2010 sees it continue to add developments to the WO1, which has twice appeared on the podium with Rosberg this season, with the next iteration of its F-duct design coming online at this weekend's Turkish GP.
"This is a development for us and we following our own path on that technology," Brawn said of the idea first introduced by McLaren in Bahrain, "We had an elaboration in Shanghai, we had a further elaboration in Barcelona, and we have [another] one here. It is just an ongoing process for us that only stopped in Monaco because it wasn't of any benefit on that circuit.
"My guess is that what we will run here will not give us a huge leap forward - it's just the accumulation of changes that need to be made. There are only a few things in F1 that really allow you to make a massive step forward. What we will run here will help, but no doubt we have to keep working hard on lots of other things as well.
"The tyres will be the major factor here - and there is one very difficult 180-degree corner, turn eight, that puts a lot of stress on the front tyres particularly. Last year in qualifying, we didn't look so strong, but our car came together very well and used the tyres very well [in the race] and we were extremely competitive. On Sunday, it's going to be a race of tyres, but I think it might be a track which could suit our car. We need to see what the others have done in the last ten days [and], for sure, I would not bet on anything - I'm not a betting person!"