Ross Brawn has promised to deliver 'an excellent car' at Mercedes Grand Prix in 2012, as speculation mounts that star driver Nico Rosberg – speculatively linked with Ferrari of late – could be preparing himself to sign a long-term agreement with the team.
In truth, Mercedes anticipated taking a decent step forward this year following the disappointment of its abject title-defending campaign in 2010, but more often than not, the underperforming MGP W02 has failed to deliver upon its pre-season promise, with no podiums to-date and a best finish of just fifth position – as the Brackley-based outfit languishes in the same spot in the constructors' standings, ten points behind fourth-placed Lotus Renault GP.
Whilst conceding that the eagerly-awaited breakthrough may not now come in F1 2011, team principal Brawn is convinced that next year will finally reveal Mercedes' true potential.
“We had to squeeze out pretty much everything to win the championship [as Brawn GP] in 2009, and we paid the price for that [in 2010],” the Englishman told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera
, going on to tip current runaway pace-setters Red Bull Racing to continue to rule the roost for the foreseeable future since 'power in F1 goes in cycles, and normally it's five years'. “We have all the elements we need to have an excellent car next season.”
One man who will palpably be hoping that is the case is Rosberg, whose patience must surely have been tested to the limit at times both last year and this, as he has routinely outperformed the most successful driver in the history of the sport in the shape of team-mate Michael Schumacher – only to come away with comparatively little to show for that prowess.
The young German has made 95 grand prix starts, and only Mika Hakkinen (96), Giancarlo Fisichella (110), Jenson Button (113), Jarno Trulli (118), Rubens Barrichello (123) and Mark Webber (130) took longer before tallying their first victory in the top flight.
According to Sport Bild
magazine, a new agreement has been tabled that would tie the 25-year-old down to Mercedes for the next five years – mirroring the long-term deals recently concluded by Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull and Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and making him de facto
number one driver by effectively moulding the team around him going forwards.
The contract is said to be worth almost €80 million in total, representing a €3 million salary increase rising by ten per cent per season. If it is signed, it would reportedly make Rosberg the highest-paid F1 driver ever without a grand prix win to his name.
“What I can say is that I'm really happy where I am – it remains my dream to succeed with the Silver Arrows,” he affirmed, whilst Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug concurred: “I am counting on him being with us in 2012, and if it is up to me, a lot longer as well.”