Brawn bullish in China

Mercedes GP boss Ross Brawn has refused to rule either of his drivers out of the 2010 F1 title race, despite others in the sport discounting the Silver Arrows after just three races.

While Michael Schumacher’s performance – or lack of – has surprised some, Nico Rosberg sits in a share of fourth place with reigning champion Jenson Button, just four points off overall leader Felipe Massa with finishes of fifth, fifth and third from Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia. Despite that, Red Bull rival Mark Webber has already dismissed Mercedes from title contention, claiming that it will be a three-horse race between RBR, Ferrari and McLaren.

Brawn, however, disagrees and refuses to rule Schumacher out of the equation either.

“With the new scoring system, just one race weekend can have a dramatic impact on the standings,” said Brawn from a wet and windy Shanghai. “Nico is extremely fast and has run very good races, especially in Malaysia. But with every weekend, Michael is gaining more and more momentum. Both will get good results when we give them a car that matches their talents – then they will be right at the front.”

Brawn has already admitted that the WO1 has yet to produce the speed to match Webber’s tips, but remains confident that efforts behind the scenes in both Brackley and Stuttgart will have the desired effect of closing the gap on the leaders.

“We hope that we can continue the upward trend in China, especially with Michael who – if he had a problem-free run – could show the progress he has made since beginning of the season,” he noted. “The top teams look very strong, but we have an aggressive development programme for the next few months with which we should be able to reduce the arrears to these teams.”

Observers may question Brawn’s judgement – and maybe misplaced loyalty – in backing Schumacher for a title shot, but the wily Briton insists that the seven-time champion should not be judged on three races, especially as one ended with mechanical problems and another was hampered by a first lap collision not of the German’s making.

“The title fight will not be decided for a long time,” he said. “Michael has a strong influence on the team and, even though he still trying to gain a foothold on F1 after three years away, it is clear that he is becoming stronger with each running.

“His technical contribution is of inestimable importance, and his approach to racing has not changed since our time together at Ferrari. He was always the ultimate professional, and still supplies technical feedback on an enormously impressive level. But, above all, Michael is enjoying his return to the sport – and I know that he loves the feeling of being in the top flight again.”

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