Ross Brawn believes it would be too optimistic to expect his Mercedes team to be fighting for race wins this season.
The team has enjoyed a much stronger preseason than last year and is adamant it has taken a step forward compared to where it was in 2011. Mercedes had a disappointing campaign last year, finishing without a podium. But despite the improved form, Brawn said on Thursday that victories may still have to wait.
"I think that is a bit too optimistic," Brawn said about winning races. "I believe we have moved quite a long way in 12 months and we are much stronger team than we were 12 months ago. I wasn't comfortable at all with where we were 12 months ago.
"We hadn't achieved the things we wanted to achieve over the winter, we had a car that had some problems and we are in a much better position this year. We won't know until the first four races really where everybody sits. Melbourne can be a bit unusual, especially now it is an evening race; tire pressures and temperatures can be a little bit of an issue. We certainly have a much better platform, the things that we have been building over the last 12 to 18 months are starting to come to fruition.
Brawn insisted the team has the full backing from Mercedes, which he says understands that winning in Formula 1 will take time.
"I think one of the great things for me of being part of Mercedes is the experience and knowledge that the board, they understand that it's a building progress supported, of course, by Norbert [Haug, Mercedes motorsport boss]," he said. "They understand what's needed, you can't flick a switch overnight. You have to build things in the same way that you do in the automotive industry. You can't create a car as important as a Mercedes overnight – you have to build it.
"They have given us massive support to build the team that we need, and we are certainly in a better position than we were 12 months ago, probably not good enough yet, but a big step forward from where we were and we will continue to make those steps."
Haug also downplayed the team's chances for this year, and suggested rival Ferrari is not struggling as much as people think.
"This is a building progress – it has taken two years and we know it will take longer, that is for sure and, of course, should you make a bigger step you should like that, but it is not really realistic that you go from fourth to number one," said Haug. "There are six cars ahead of us, very strong, and I have to say that I think Ferrari is not struggling like this is described right now like now; this is my judgment, this is my feeling.
"We have good testing, good mileage. We had good test days so we have prepared ourselves as well as possible and now we have to wait for the first four races to see where we are."