Brawn ready for Mercedes challenge

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The Independent Online

Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn fears his pride in defending the Formula One world titles may come before a fall in the season-opening grand prix in Bahrain on Sunday.

Of the four teams expected to challenge for the win in Sakhir, and ultimately this year's championships, Mercedes remain circumspect about their chances.

The returning Michael Schumacher has blown hot and cold in recent weeks as to whether Mercedes will be a contender as rumours abound of the team delivering a major upgrade for Bahrain.

If true, it could lead to the second debut of the silver arrows - 55 years after they last graced F1 - being a glorious one.

Brawn, though, who last year captured both titles in fairytale fashion with his own team prior to Mercedes' takeover, is being a little coy in relation to a repeat performance.

"Everyone at the team is proud to be representing the rich motorsport pedigree of Mercedes-Benz as we start the season as the first Mercedes works team for over half a century," said Brawn.

"In addition, knowing we go into the new season as the reigning world champions gives the team confidence and a fierce pride to defend our position.

"However, this is a new season and a new challenge.

"We had a strong pre-season testing programme with the car, but we have not quite reached the level of preparation we would have liked prior to Bahrain.

"The car shows promise and we have a strong development programme planned for the season, but there is a lot of hard work ahead to ensure we will be in the fight for the title."

Brawn's words are echoed by Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug, and it is either a case of the team hiding concerns, or they have so far kept their true cards close to their chest.

"Judging our competitiveness for the first couple of races, my impression is we are not quite where we want to be and I would not see our team in the role of favourites," said a downbeat Haug.

"Having said that, I am fully convinced the whole team and our drivers Nico (Rosberg) and Michael are fully prepared to get on top of our job and fulfil our targets which are winning races and fighting for world championships."