There will be no knee-jerk reaction to poor pre-season testing performances at Petronas Mercedes GP, insists CEO Nick Fry, whose team has just one four-day session to put right its wrongs before heading to Australia for the opening round of the 2011 F1 campaign.
Mercedes, which was expected to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season with a stronger car born out of a longer gestation time than the WO1, has struggled for pace in the first three tests, with several areas of concern for Fry, technical director Ross Brawn and the rest of the design team [see story here
]. The WO2 has been as much as two seconds off the pace, despite having Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher at the wheel, but Fry insists that there is no sense of panic at Brackley.
Schumacher topped the times on day two of the Jerez test, but Mercedes was accused of using low fuel levels and new tyres to make positive headlines, and much has been made about a raft of development parts that are expected to appear on the car when testing resumes - and concludes - at the Circuit de Catalunya this week. Fry, however, maintains that the aero update was always in the pipeline, and has not been brought on by the apparent lack of performance seen so far.
"Performance, obviously from what we've seen on the track, at the moment is not as good as we would like," he told Reuters
, "But I think there are two major reasons for that. One is that the car did have some cooling issues and has been running with a very sub-optimal cooling package and aerodynamic package, and that is [worth] a significant amount of time.
"Secondly, we went in [to testing] with a slightly different strategy of having what we called the 'basic' car to start with and what we think will be a significant upgrade for the first race. So we knew we were going to be not the quickest, let's put it that way. We are not panicking, we have a plan, we're sticking to it and I think that we will be in a reasonable shape by the time we get to Australia."
Amid concerns that the WO2 has yet to pass the mandatory FIA crash tests, Fry admitted that the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix - which was due to have taken place this coming weekend [11-13 March] but was cancelled due to civil unrest in the island kingdom - had helped the team by giving it extra time to work on its problems.
"The truth of the matter is that the extra time has helped everyone, possibly with the exception of Ferrari who seem to be going very well and very reliably from the start," he said, "It would be untruthful to say it's not been a help. It's been a help to us - and I suspect to many of the other teams as well. I think the good news is that the reliability is coming."