Following candid admissions from the team's management that the new Mercedes Grand Prix MGP W02 is in the region of a second shy of where it needs to be at present, Nico Rosberg has lauded as 'impressive' the raft of updates brought to this week's final pre-season group test in Barcelona, revealing that 'the full package should be a big step'.
Despite a couple of – ostensibly low-fuel – headline-grabbing lap times from multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, in truth Mercedes' 2011 challenger has had a troubled birth, languishing some way from the leading pace and seemingly in no shape to challenge the likes of Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes or even Lotus Renault GP.
However, team principal Ross Brawn had promised 'something quite different' for Barcelona [see separate story – click here
], and a new exhaust package and new bodywork have been the first changes to appear, with Rosberg conducting baseline runs around the Circuit de Catalunya today (Wednesday) to assess the developments, reporting results in-line with expectations.
The young German then moved onto set-up and tyre management over longer runs, during which he set his fastest lap time, good enough for eighth on the end-of-day timesheets. Rosberg completed exactly 100 laps in all – taking Mercedes' pre-season running total to 4,768km to-date – although a bodywork problem brought proceedings to an earlier-than-planned conclusion. The 25-year-old will hand over to team-mate Schumacher for Thursday and Friday, before returning to the cockpit on Saturday.
“It was nice to get the first of our upgrades on the car today, and to feel their potential,” he reflected. “Thanks to everyone at the team for their hard work as I think we have some impressive developments, even though we couldn't test or show the full performance today as not all of the elements are on the car and working together yet. We had glimpses that showed that the full package should be a big step. The bodywork problem cost some time at the end, however we still learned a great deal.”
To see Wednesday's testing times in full, click here