Mercedes' team principal Ross Brawn has admitted that the Brackley-based team is still struggling to understand its 2012 car, despite Nico Rosberg having claimed its first win in China earlier this year.
The German marque began the season as a dark horse for success and, despite scoring a single point from the opening two rounds, began racking up better results once Rosberg had broken his own victory duck in Shanghai. Another podium in Monaco - where team-mate Michael Schumacher posted the fastest time in qualifying - and another for the seven-time champion in Valencia suggested that the W03 remained a potent threat heading into the middle of the season, but a recent tailing off, highlighted by a brace of seventh places for Schumacher, has prompted Brawn to admit that Mercedes is still not on top of the car or, more specifically, the way it uses its tyres.
"I don't believe that you will ever fully understand a racing car," he told the official F1 website, "You have your theories and ideas, you have your experience, but I doubt that you will ever 100 per cent understand what makes a great racing car. You will understand a fair percentage of it, but never a total understanding."
Although he has enjoyed success with the likes of Ferrari and his own eponymous team before its takeover by the Three Pointed Star, Brawn concedes that, even then, the car remained something of a mystery.
"I wouldn't say it has ever been by accident, but we've followed the path of building characteristics into a car and many times we've ended up with competitive cars, but this is not an exact science," he continued, "We don't spend years evaluating different ideas - we have to get them on the car and have to hope that they work well and have to judge as best as we can and move on. It is a very challenging, but very interesting, business."
The arrival of Pirelli as replacement for long-time tyre supplier Bridgestone, and the decision to pursue a route of greater tyre degradation in order to spice up both action and competition in the top flight, has left more than one team scratching its head, but Mercedes appears to have been more affected than most when it comes to managing its rubber.
"You have to come to terms with different situations that we are facing in F1, and it is true that finding solutions to get the tyres to work most effectively is pretty challenging," Brawn conceded, "But that goes for all the teams. I am encouraging our people to look at the situation as an opportunity and not as a problem. The team that gets to understand the tyres the soonest in a most effective way will be the team that is most competitive. It is more the politics in F1 that you wish weren't there, but you also have to accept this as part of the business and work with them as best as you can. Probably that also goes for the tyres."
With the team's fortunes rising and falling by the week, Brawn revealed that Mercedes was determined to continue strengthening its backroom staff in a bid to get on par with the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari - and believes that it can do so sooner rather than later.
"We've won a race and had some strong podiums, and we've scored more points than we'd done this time last year, but, of course, we also feel that we are not quite where we want to be in terms of consistent competitiveness," he admitted, "We are still working on strengthening the team, strengthening the designs to be more competitive in the future.
"That is what we've been doing in the last twelve months. P5 is not our ambition and we will do anything possible to end better. There are still a lot of races to come with many more points to be won. We haven't got the car quite as we wanted right now, but we have a very good team - very good people - so I am optimistic that we are going to have a stronger second half to the season than the first half."