Mercedes GP boss Ross Brawn is adamant his team has reduced the gap to the front-running squads, although he concedes it has not been enough to make the outfit as competitive as needed.
Although Mercedes started the season with high hopes of fighting for victories, it soon became clear it was not strong enough to achieve the goal. The team is in fourth place in the standings, over 300 points behind leader Red Bull, and is yet to finish on the podium this year.
Brawn says Mercedes is still trying its best to reach the top and, despite its disappointing season, he reckons it has closed the gap to the top in terms of lap time.
"Obviously, we're still trying very hard," said Brawn. "We kind of do an analysis after each race and generally we're clawing it back, slowly – obviously not as quick as we would like, because I think there's pretty intense competition at the front, so they're working ferociously to improve their situation and we're also trying to catch up.
"But in terms of what we call normalized lap time, where you take account of tires, fuel, all sort of things, we have reduced the gap – just not enough yet."
Brawn conceded that in hindsight there are things the team should have done differently this year, in particular around the diffuser area.
"We are about six months out of phase," he added. "If we had six months worth of performance developments in the car now we would be looking a lot better. So really that's what we are trying to do. There are some things that we would be differently.
"The sort of exhaust plan diffuser, or the technologies around the exhaust, possibly we didn't get onto that early enough, in terms of the implications it has; and there are some thing we did to optimize the car without those technologies that perhaps we wouldn't have done with those technologies. You are balancing aerodynamics against weight distribution, center of gravity, all those sort of things."
The team boss is also convinced Mercedes has a stronger structure now, but says it will expand it as far as the Resource Restriction Agreement allows.
"To add people, you have to have the structure you need, and obviously one of the big things for the team is Bob Bell joining us," Brawn said. "The infrastructure has to be in place before you can start adding numbers. And I think we've strengthened the structure.
"It's always nice to do well with the smallest number possible, and there is the RRA limit, and we are looking to move to that absolute limit. At the same time the other teams are coming down to it, because they are still on the glide path down to the RRA limit, so in 2011 the teams who are bigger still have the benefit of that glide path down to the RRA targets."