Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn has hinted that the Brackley squad may have a better shot at winning this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix after bringing further updates to its W04 in an effort to control its appetite for tyres.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have claimed the last three pole positions – in China, Bahrain and Barcelona – suggesting that there is nothing wrong with the car's single-lap pace, but have yet to achieve anything better than the Briton's third place in Shanghai as a result.
Having again set the pace in Thursday practice in Monaco, where Rosberg topped both sessions and led a 1-2 on the combined timesheet, Mercedes is being viewed as the favourite for pole once more, and Brawn is more optimistic that, this time, it can convert the advantage into something better.
"Our priority here has been long runs and durability and how the tyres are going to perform in the race,” he told Sky Sports F1
, acknowledging that rear tyre wear has been the team's downfall in the first five races, “I think everyone knows you want to do a one-stop here if you can manage it but, if you do that with tyres falling apart, then you are in trouble.
"We have brought some developments since Barcelona. We put our heads together and, even though the track is very different here, we have had some positive feedback from the changes we have made.
"I am not going to go into detail, but it is to effect tyre consistency and durability and how they behave on the track, whilst also trying to maintain our one lap performance which seems okay.”
The only note of caution Brawn issued, however, was the usual comment regarding the relative fuel loads being carried during the first couple of practice sessions, which would necessarily affect the comparative pace of Mercedes' rivals.
"We don't know what fuel people are running, but you can see from the times out there this afternoon that we were in the ballpark and [the tyres] seemed to hold together,” he reported, “What we don't know is, on Sunday, with the conditions we have and the track we have, where we will be.
"Overtaking is not terribly viable here, so qualifying really is important. But if you are not in good shape around the pit-stops then you can drop the ball. [The front row] is a great place to start in Monaco, but there will be some little windows of opportunity and, if we slip up, or other teams slip up, then you can give it away around the pit-stops. There is still a lot of work to do.”