Back at the circuit where he first led a race in the top flight, Nico Rosberg has conceded that with the situation having been clouded by a litany of issues during the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne just under a fortnight ago, Mercedes Grand Prix is still unsure as to where it truly stands in the early F1 2011 pecking order.
Mercedes was one of just three teams – along with Williams and hapless non-starter HRT – to have neither of its two cars take the chequered flag Down Under, with Rosberg finding himself unceremoniously removed from the action by a wayward Rubens Barrichello, and team-mate Michael Schumacher receiving a tag from one of the Scuderia Toro Rossos on only the opening lap that ultimately precipitated his retirement on safety grounds 18 laps later.
Even disregarding that, however, the new MGP W02 did not demonstrate the kind of pace it had done during the final pre-season group test around Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya earlier in the month, and arriving back in Kuala Lumpur for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix – a race in which he claimed a podium finish this time last year – Rosberg admits that there remain many questions yet to be answered.
“It is definitely a track I enjoy, just the characteristics really,” reflected the 25-year-old, who has an excellent record around the Sepang International Circuit, qualifying third there in only his second-ever race in F1 with Williams back in 2006 and leading the opening 15 laps three years later. “There is a bit of everything, and also I have some great memories. I led my first race here and finished third last year in a Mercedes, so it is always nice to come back.
“For sure, Australia was not a good start for us, but there were a few issues there, especially reliability, which we didn't get right throughout the weekend so that really hurt us. Also, set-up wise – and that is mechanical, aerodynamic, everything – we just did not seem to find the right path, so a lot of effort has gone into making things better.
“We don't even really know at the moment where we are compared to the other teams, so we're going to concentrate on getting the best out of what we have and then we can start to think about where other teams are and what they're doing. We are a really strong team, so we will get there.”