Ross Brawn is convinced Michael Schumacher will show a big improvement in form in 2011, judging by the progress the seven-time champion made at the end of last year.
Schumacher's return to F1 in 2010 did not live up to its preseason hype, as he failed to finish on the podium and was beaten regularly by teammate Nico Rosberg. Speaking in the week that Schumacher celebrated his 42nd birthday, Brawn reckons the onus is now more on him to help Mercedes produce a better car, rather than expect major progress from his driver.
When asked if he had thought of any birthday present to give Schumacher, Brawn told Gazzetta della Sport: "No, I haven't thought about any particular present for Michael Schumacher, because I already know what he wants from me: a competitive car.
"I'm still optimistic because Michael's performances at the end of last season were encouraging. I'm convinced he will go decidedly better this year."
A lot of Schumacher's early season problems were blamed on the characteristics of Bridgestone's 2010 tires, with the narrower fronts not giving the German the confidence he had enjoyed earlier in his career. Schumacher hopes Pirelli's 2011 rubber will help him, but that is far from guaranteed, with early impressions from the first F1 test with the tires not proving conclusive.
"It's premature to say that," said Brawn when asked if the Pirelli's would help Schumacher. "In the Abu Dhabi test we didn't detect big differences compared to the performances obtained with Bridgestones, but it's clear that, by changing supplier, the cars need to be adapted. We'll see a lot of changes during winter testing."