Nico Rosberg believes that, despite struggling to reach the podium in 2010, the Mercedes GP team can be a factor in next year's F1 world championship battle.

The German, who finished seventh in this year's standings with 142 points and a best result of third - achieved in Malaysia, China and Britain - accepts that the season was something of a transition for the Brackley-based squad as it not only morphed from Brawn GP into the Mercedes 'works' operation, but also attempted to repeat its success from 2009 despite not enjoying the preparation time it would have liked on the W01.

However, although his final five races included two DNFs, Rosberg is optimistic that Mercedes will come out firing in 2011, particularly with team-mate Michael Schumacher able to offer his technical experience in the development of the W02, which team boss Ross Brawn insists will be a more radical design than its predecessor.

"The expertise is there, but we just need a little time to get everything going in the right direction," the 25-year old told Germany's Auto Bild magazine, "But we are on the right track. Ross Brawn has got the team structure right and, sooner or later, it will happen. It is only a question of whether we manage to achieve it in time for the beginning of the [2011] season because we must not forget that the gap [to the frontrunners] is already quite large."

If Rosberg is to take anything positive out of the 2010 campaign, it is his comparative domination of Schumacher over the 19-race campaign. Expected to be overshadowed by the seven-time champion, even though Schumacher was coming out of a three-season retirement, from the moment Mercedes' line-up was confirmed, the younger German established himself as a genuine star of the future following four seasons in the shadows with Williams - even though he himself tended to side with the hype.

"He is a very high-profile team-mate and I'm obviously very happy that I ended [the season] in front of him," Rosberg smiles, "I would never have imagined myself in such a position. It is something to remember as he is a seven-time world champion who is considered one of the best drivers of all time. You can scrape off as much paint as you like, his success will always remain, so I do not feel at all guilty about enjoying this moment."

Asked to pinpoint a specific reason why he was faster, Rosberg struggles to find much other than his more rapid reaction to a car that suited neither drivers' style, but was quick to insist that Schumacher has a major role to play in Mercedes' push to the front.

"I don't know, but it seems like I got along with the set-up, the whole package, better [than Schumacher did]," he reasoned, "But he is not a seven-time world champion for nothing, so he must do something right. He is very competent in all areas.

"We have learned from each other this year and, for me, it was very interesting working with him. I think the public has a false image of Michael. Of course, he tries to gain advantages, but this is quite normal and I'd do the same."



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