Brawn encouraged by 2011 Mercedes
By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Valencia
Mercedes boss Ross Brawn says he is optimistic about his team's chances of competing at the front in 2011 after the first test of their new car.
Mercedes have so far lagged behind the pace of the new Red Bull and Ferrari and suffered reliability problems.
But Brawn told BBC Sport: "We're not right at the sharp end but there's a long way to go to the first race.
"Red Bull look pretty strong, we have not seen the new McLaren yet but I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far."
Mercedes drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, neither of whom won a race last season as the team finished fourth in the constructors' championship, have been about a second off the fastest time of the three days' of testing in Valencia.
That was set by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso on Wednesday with a lap of one minute 13.307 seconds, 0.3secs quicker than the best managed by Red Bull's reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.
Brawn said Mercedes - like most other teams - will have a major package of upgrades before the first race in Bahrain on 13 March and that he was confident the car would make a step forward.
"I know what's in the pipeline," he said, "so I can do the calculations of what we are going to be able to do at the first race.
"I know what we can do with the package we have; we're just starting to scratch the surface of getting a set-up.
"But no one's ever certain. I don't know what fuel loads people are running. If someone's out there running 120kgs and we're running 50 or 60 then we've got a problem, but I don't think that's the case."
Brawn said his team had been hamstrung by "teething problems", most notably around the installation of the Kers energy recovery and power-boost system, which is returning to F1 after a year's absence.
Brawn expects Schumacher (left) to improve in 2011
Although Mercedes's Kers system was widely believed to be the best in 2009, Brawn's team did not run it that year, which was before they were taken over by the German car giant.
"We've got some teething problems," he said. "We're tackling Kers for the team for the first time, although the engine people have got a lot of experience of it. We've had a bit of fragmented start but it's settling down and we're starting to understand the car and it looks OK.
"We have identified [the problems] early and we're kind of patched up at the moment.
"We'll have to put some proper fixes in place. We've got some areas that were getting a little bit too hot and one or two other things that we need to address."
He said he was hopeful that the new car would address the weaknesses of their 2010 machine, with which Schumacher in particular struggled.
But he denied that the German legend, who was outperformed by team-mate Rosberg last season, was under pressure to perform.
"It depends how you define it," Brawn said. "He's under a huge amount of pressure from his own pride.
"We don't put pressure on drivers, you can't do that. It doesn't work. They generate their own pressure.
"We have our competitive ambitions and you're only in motor racing because you're ambitious and competitive, so if you're not succeeding it's very disappointing.
"I'm very optimistic he'll put a much stronger performance this year."
Brawn would not comment on a report in a respected German magazine that Mercedes was about to take total control of the team, buying out the 24.9% shareholding that remains in the hands of Brawn and his partners.
But he added: "I intend to be around the team a long time. My long-term future while I'm in F1 is with Mercedes and I intend to be in F1 a long time."