Date: 13th March 2011 at 9:09am
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Mercedes might have been telling us throughout winter testing that they were comfortable with their development and may have sounded confident throughout, but it still came as a surprise for them to be topping the tables at the final two winter test sessions ahead of the 2011 Formula One season.

They had struggled in earlier testing sessions after reliability issues forced them to compromise on speed, while they made short term alterations to negate the problems with their cooling system.

However the team remained confident that an upgrade package would bring them closer to the leaders Ferrari and Red Bull.

‘We’re about a second off where we want to be, which is at the front, so we’ve got to find a second in the upgrade which we think we can do,’ Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said to the BBC a week ago.

That upgrade was ran for the first time on Friday, both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg ran, Schumacher completing 67 laps, while Rosberg completed 22 laps.

During Schumacher’s run the former seven-time World champion posted a time of 1 minute 21.268 seconds, the fastest of the day and in fact to that point the fastest in winter test sessions in Barcelona.

Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari was 0.346 seconds off the pace, however Ferrari looked to be concentrating more on longer stints, completing 141 laps on the day.

Schumacher’s team mate Nico Rosberg was third 0.520 seconds behind.

Unsurprisingly the result left Mercedes rather upbeat.

‘We’ve definitely moved forward, Whether it’s enough we won’t know until Melbourne. Brawn said to the BBC on Friday.

With a new front wing, newly developed brake ducts and a redesigned diffuser and exhaust system, Mercedes had proved that their confidence was not misguided, something which will please their supporters and of course their drivers.

‘It has worked pretty well, so we are looking forward to going to Australia to be in a reasonably strong position. I am not sure everyone has opened their cards completely yet but that is something to be seen in Australia.’ Schumacher added on Friday to Autosport Magazine.

Mercedes were one of just five teams which were set to test on Saturday with Ferrari, Williams, HRT and McLaren all planning to run.

However it was a very wet day in Barcelona and only Nico Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton set times of any note with a heavily restricted day.

Rosberg completed 35 laps and was once again on top of the table with Maldonado and Hamilton both within 0.746 seconds, despite the lack of running, Rosberg remained up beat over the progress his team had made over the final two days of running.

‘We are on the up for sure, It has been a much more difficult winter than we anticipated, although it was always going to be that we would not be quick in the beginning.

‘But still, it was more difficult and it has been great to see how the team turned things around and pushed on with the new upgrades and everything.’
Rosberg said on Saturday to Autosport Magazine.

The large step forward has probably propelled Mercedes ahead of McLaren for the opening race of the season in Australia, with Ferrari and Red Bull already completing the majority of their testing by the time the upgrades came for Mercedes, it is difficult to tell exactly where they sit in terms of the front runners, however Mercedes target was to improve on last seasons constructors finish and if they are now ahead of McLaren then overall they will be delighted.

Not long now until the guessing game ends and we really know who is looking good for the new season.