Michael Schumacher believes that tire degradation is no longer as significant a weakness for Mercedes as it was earlier in the season, thanks to the team's recent car upgrades.
Schumacher and his teammate Nico Rosberg both finished behind Adrian Sutil's Force India – which made only two stops to their three – at last week's German Grand Prix. But the seven-time World Champion insists that the team's three-stop race was not forced by tire degradation.
The Mercedes W02's Red Bull-style exhaust-blown diffuser has improved the degradation on the rear tires, making Schumacher confident that the car has improved in this area.
"We have made improvements in this area," said Schumacher when asked about the team's tire degradation problems. "Nurburgring was on the cold side, so it wasn't about overheating the tires, which normally we would suffer from.
"Since we have had the new updates, most of these issues have been solved. Tire degradation is certainly one area [we will focus on this weekend] but if it is the main area, I'm not sure. From my point of view, not having the spin [during the German GP], I could perhaps have been in front of Adrian. It's a question of choosing the right strategy rather than whether our tires last longer."
Schumacher added that he expects Mercedes to be fighting to be "best of the rest" behind Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren this weekend, with the car not currently good enough to fight at the front.
"From what we saw at the Nurburgring, we are about seventh and eighth," said the 42-year-old German. "You could say that if things were normal, if I didn't have a spin and if Nico didn't have a bad set of tires, we would have been seventh and eighth.
"That's our position. It's a long way to the podium from there. If there are unforeseen circumstances, you never know what can happen, but the weather forecast for Sunday is for no rain. So it's about consolidating our fourth position in the constructors' championship – that's what we are working on."