Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug is convinced that the Three Pointed Star's F1 effort is closer to where it needs to be for success than in either of the previous two years running under the Silver Arrows banner.
Speaking on the eve of the opening round of the 2012 world championship, Haug insisted that the Mercedes AMG Petronas squad - which won the 2009 title as Brawn GP, don't forget - is 'better prepared' than in 2010 and 2011, and that should help propel Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg into the hunt for podiums, if not initially challenging Red Bull and McLaren for race wins. After a handful of top three finishes for the younger German in 2010, the team went without silverware last season, with Schumacher's fourth place in Canada being its best result from the 19 rounds.
"It's only a little over 100 days since F1 was in Brazil for the final race of the 2011 season, but now we are ready for the 2012 season to begin and to get back to what we love best: going motor racing," the burly German noted, "Starting the third season with our Silver Arrows works team, we think we are better prepared than the two years before, which indicates that our learning process is heading in the right direction.
"The W03 has run reliably since its first run on 16 February, completed 4450km during pre-season testing, and achieved an average daily testing mileage of 472km, which equates to an average of more than one-and-a-half grand prix distances during each of the nine test days.
"Nico and Michael are both excited about the new season and highly motivated, while our team members back at base in Brackley and Brixworth and on track are working extremely hard to deliver both performance and reliability at the opening race. The whole team has done a good job in both areas this winter. After testing, we know we have a solid basis to work from and a good platform for development."
Although Mercedes took its turn at the top of the times in pre-season testing, it did so with its 2011-spec car in Jerez, leaving the true potential of the W03 unrecognised ahead of the opening round.
"Understandably, there is much speculation about the pecking order of the new season, and finally we will get a first answer on Saturday afternoon during qualifying in
Melbourne, when everybody has to put their cards on the table," Haug acknowledged, "Before the first race of this long season, I would like to thank all our team members who have worked so hard and with dedication during the past months, with our clear target which is making the next step in improving our performance compared to our competitors. We aim to show that we have taken this step forward as the first part of a continuous process of improvement."
Veteran Schumacher is also fired up to put the winter and pre-season testing behind him and start the serious business of trying to win an eighth world title. He too is keen to see how the W03 stacks up against the likes of Red Bull and McLaren after enduring two years of his F1 comeback having to deal with an under-competitive car.
"Finally, we can stop trying to read the tea-leaves from testing and actually go racing," he agreed,. "Melbourne is a perfect location, and the ideal place to start the season. The city loves F1, the fans create a great atmosphere and obviously, as drivers, we feel that too. And because we've already got a buzz about what's to come, it just makes you want to get out there and start driving.
"During winter testing, we completed lots of miles and built up a really complete set of data, which should put us in a good position for the first race and to develop the car even further in the right direction. We're ready for the 2012 season to begin..."