Mercedes' vice-president of motorsport Norbert Haug has again attempted to defend Michael Schumacher's poor results since returning to Formula One, insisting that it is the team's fault and not that of the driver.
As the Three Pointed Star prepares for its first appearance at a German Grand Prix since 1954, the seven-time champion is clinging on to a top ten position in the standings, two places and seven points ahead of former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello, but managed only 23rd place in the wet opening practice session as Mercedes struggled to get its new rear wing development working.
Team-mate Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, took sixth spot in the same session, and remained ahead of Schumacher in FP2, despite the elder statesman improving to sixth in the afternoon. Rosberg, however, has 90 points to Schumacher's 36 ahead of Hockenheim, and the rumours about the latter's future refuse to go away. Haug, though, insists that there is nothing wrong that the team can't fix.
"I think Michael is in a good position," he claimed, "He's had some very good races, for example in Barcelona and Turkey, where he came home fourth with a car which was probably not supposed to, compared to the competitors, to be fourth quickest. That was a good job from the team, from Michael, from the execution of the strategy, from the pit-stops and so on.
"Having said that, remember last weekend at Silverstone.... I think it's not necessary to defend Michael, but you can look at the figures in Q2. I heard yesterday that Q2 doesn't count, [and] I've been in the business long enough to know that, but I also know that, you will not get a present in Q2 because everybody tries to be in the top ten. Michael did a very respectable lap time in Q2, and his best sectors in Q3 would have put him sixth, so I think it's basically there, and it will come sooner rather than later.
"I think Nico can probably explain it as well. He's certainly a very, very quick driver, a very talented driver, a very focused driver, but I think Nico won't be the guy to say that it's easy to keep Michael behind, so we have a lot of respect. It will
come, it's up to us to improve the car. We are completely composed in the team, working together. Just give us some time. We are not yet there.
"In the meantime, Ross Brawn, Mercedes-Benz, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg - these are names that are working together, that know how the business goes. I'm not the man to make predictions but, believe me, we are going to catch up step-by-step - and Michael will play an enormous role in that process."
Asked why Mercedes wasn't yet able to emulate Brawn's performances from 2009, and whether the team - and Mercedes management - were beginning to feel the pressure, Haug insisted that progress was being made.
"It was certainly a little bit tricky for everybody [on Friday morning], but I think our first impressions are quite good," he claimed, "Making big predictions is certainly not what we want, and we are not in a position to do so, as we don't have the complete knowledge after such a Friday. But I think our basic feeling is that we are going in the right direction.