Mercedes GP is taking nothing for granted about its form heading into this weekend's season opener in Australia, despite an encouraging final test for the revised W02.
After waiting until the Barcelona test to introduce its final 2011 aerodynamic package, the team delivered a big improvement and helped Michael Schumacher top the times on the last day of dry running. But while that performance has raised expectations for the team ahead of the Albert Park event, Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug insists the team is keeping its feet on the ground about what it can expect.
"We knew that there was something in the pipeline but between knowing and delivering there is always a question mark," Haug told AUTOSPORT. "The calculations in the wind tunnel said we could come into this direction but then the proof of the pudding is the eating – and so far, so good. But there is no reason to get excited right now.
"We are not seeing ourselves as the favorites, but we hope we have developed further in comparison with the competitors and are heading in the right direction. We need to see, and we need to have realistic targets."
Red Bull Racing and Ferrari remain favorites to fight it out for the victory in Australia, but Mercedes GP could be a dark horse for success. Especially if the tire situation makes the race even more unpredictable. Haug says all the team wants is a good platform so it can build on the fourth place it took last year in the Constructors' Championship.
"From fourth we want to go forward," he said. "If we start the season as third, or among the top three, then it is a good base for further improvement. There is more to come from our car and everyone in the team.
"We stretched development time to the limit, this was the plan from the beginning and, thanks to Ross [Brawn] and his technical guys, we have achieved that. But we have not scored a single point so far.
"However, we should have a decent and respectable starting place in Melbourne. We have achieved what we thought would be achievable before the season. Now, if the other guys are faster by a second or not we will see."