Ross Brawn thinks his team will now need a major development push for the middle of the season to keep itself in the driving seat for the world championship, after seeing rivals close in at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Although Jenson Button grabbed a brilliant pole position for Sunday's race at the Circuit de Catalunya, the host of upgrades all teams introduced for this event have left Brawn in little doubt that the Briton and teammate Rubens Barrichello are set to face an increasingly tough challenge for victory.
Brawn is delighted that the package his team introduced for Barcelona, worth at least four tenths of a second, has kept his outfit fighting at the front of the field. However, he concedes that things are closing up -- and his team will need another step forward soon to respond to the efforts of its rivals.
"You tend to react to what is going on," said Brawn. "We were fortunate enough to set the bar, and then everyone has come up to it. I am sure someone will exceed it, and then we are going to have to respond. That is the nature of F1, and there are different things that drive you along.
"So, obviously, I am very pleased that on a circuit like this, which tends to be a good judge on the performance of cars, that we are still competitive. I think if you look at where we are quick here, then Monaco I am quite looking forward to. But we are going to need another step going into the middle of the season, because it is all happening very rapidly."
Brawn is confident that more time can be eked out of the BGP001 in its current guise, and he also thinks world championship leader Button is excelling now he has a car capable of fighting for wins.
"It is the belief and confidence and all the things you get when things come together," he said about Button's consistently strong performances this year. "I am sure that is giving him a push as well."
When asked by AUTOSPORT if his views on Button had been changed by what he has seen this season, Brawn said: "Well, we had a difficult year last year. Remember last year, he seemed to hit anything that was moving!
"The guys who knew him well said it was really out of character, so I had to be patient to see it. Then there were a few races where he did exceptionally well and it got hidden because of the car we had.
"So I would not say my views have changed, but they are more concentrated now. The periods like last year, when things were very good, they are just more consistent this year."
Brawn admitted the team and Button had been lucky to start the crucial final qualifying lap, just 1.6 seconds before the chequered flag, after getting caught up with Robert Kubica.
"It was too tight," said Brawn. "We were lucky really. We knew we were leaving it until the end, but we sort of got a little bit tangled up with Robert [Kubica], and we didn't know if we should let him by or keep in front. It just got too close, so it was good luck that we didn't get caught out."
When asked if he thought Button could get the top stop as he started the lap, Brawn said: "I honestly didn't, because he had been struggling a little bit with the balance. Although he was obviously quick in Q2, I was far from certain about it. But he has been impressing us all year, hasn't he?"