The Mercedes GP Petronas team secured another double points finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but made it quite clear that sixth and seventh places fall short of where it wants to be, especially looking forward to next season.
Already resigned to fighting for the minor points places after ceasing development of its WO1, the former Brawn team was forced to relinquish its hold on the constructors' championship crown after a Red Bull 1-2 earned the Milton Keynes team enough points to wrap up the 2010 title a race early, and it is obvious that next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale cannot come soon enough for Mercedes.
Despite having Nico Rosberg miss out on the top ten shoot-out in qualifying after he was baulked in traffic, and having to settle for eighth on the grid with Michael Schumacher, the team hoped for a decent run in the race but, with no attrition among the frontrunners, and Jenson Button's strategy vaulting him ahead of the seven-time world champion, sixth and seventh were the best positions on offer at the end of 71 laps.
"We achieved the best possible results for us today, finishing behind the drivers who were fighting for the world championship as we have done in the six races since Spa," the Three Pointed Star's Norbert Haug commented, "The team, Nico and Michael did a solid job and it is positive that Nico came home in sixth place after starting from 13th position. Michael recovered well from losing two places on the first lap to finish in seventh position and could have gone one place better if he had not been caught after his pit-stop behind a car who changed tyres late in the race.
"Sixth and seventh places are not our target for the future but, for now, these results are the maximum possible with the technical package we currently have. Well done to everybody in our team and thank you for your hard work. We have one more race to go next weekend and then we are looking forward to next season with consistently better results."
Frustrated at being blocked by Sebastien Buemi in the second stage of qualifying on Saturday, Rosberg was determined to haul himself into the points, and drove strongly throughout. His pace, and the decision to use a late safety car to make an extra tyre change was rewarded when team-mate Schumacher allowed him to take sixth place - even though a mix-up over compounds, caused by a radio problem, actually required the younger German to make two
stops within as many laps.
"I had a strong start today and, when Michael pitted ahead of me, I had clear air and was able to make up positions thanks to our good strategy," Rosberg reported, "From then, it got a little chaotic, but the team made a great call to get me on new rubber when the safety car came out. Unfortunately, Jenson did the same and there was a lot of chaos with lapped cars, so I wasn't able to make up any further positions until Michael let me past which was nice as he was on used rubber against my new tyres."
Schumacher, not a man renowned for kind gestures on track, confirmed that he had recognised Rosberg's greater potential, having already had his position compromised early on.
"I had quite a good start, gaining two positions, but unfortunately I lost them again directly afterwards because my fight with Robert [Kubica] put me on the grass," he revealed, "We had good pace but, with hindsight, my pit-stop was maybe a little too early, which left me stuck behind Adrian [Sutil]. Towards the end, I let Nico past when he was on fresh tyres as he had the better chance to fight Jenson in front of us."
Rosberg's result saw him leap-frog Kubica in the overall standings, moving up to seventh and into touching distance of Ferrari's Felipe Massa, while Schumacher, despite his benevolence, consolidated an already untouchable ninth.
"We are pleased to get a solid double points finish with good drives from Nico and Michael, and it's good to have two cars scoring points - but, obviously, we are not finishing where we would like to," team principal Ross Brawn confirmed, "We made all the right strategy calls which enabled us to make up several places on cars ahead of us on the grid, but it was frustrating to lose a place to Jenson in the early stops, as we expected him to get held up with traffic."