Mercedes has revealed that it is bucking the traditional push to prioritize aerodynamic improvements to its car, because the team believes there is a bigger benefit to be had from better tire management.
While its major rivals including McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have all brought a series of big aero updates over the last few races, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says his team has put attention instead on other facets of its car.
"We have been focusing on tire usage, tire management and tire control, and things related to that," he said ahead of the British Grand Prix. "It has become clear that there is no doubt pure aero downforce helps, but given some of the disparity between lap times of the cars, it is less significant than using the tires properly. So we have done quite a lot of work on the variables that we can control with regard to the tires. This could be quite a challenging weekend with the weather, so getting the tires working in cold conditions and getting the wets to work properly is we think a vital part of the weekend."
Brawn thinks that the nature of the season, with the battle at the front of the field closer than it has been for years and tires playing such an important role, means that the 2012 development race will not be as usual this year.
"The developments are of a different nature," he said. "Perhaps in previous years it has been a simple equation of, 'Let's find some more downforce, let's have less drag and some more efficiency,' and you always go faster. But this year, if that is not of the right characteristics, you may find the benefits are not so good.
"To perhaps give you a pointer, in qualifying in Valencia it was incredibly close, with I don't know how many cars within a couple of tenths of a second – and it is highly unlikely that all those cars had the same downforce. So there are other parameters which are coming into force, which we have to understand and we have to find ways of unlocking.
"I think the development will be critical, but it will perhaps develop in different ways, maybe with suspension geometry. Perhaps how you manage tire temperature and other factors will come into play, other than perhaps the traditional ones we have had in previous years."