Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe is not taking the threat posed by Ferrari and Red Bull lightly after seeing his drivers fall down the pecking order last time out in Singapore.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could only qualify fifth and sixth on Saturday at Marina Bay, finishing 1.4 seconds off the pole position time set by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
In the race on Sunday, Mercedes’ pace was closer to that of the front-runners, but still not enough to get Rosberg any higher than fourth at the checkered flag. Hamilton retired from the race due to a power unit issue.
Speaking to NBCSN ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Lowe said that Mercedes was yet to completely understand why it had been off the pace in Singapore, but that focus has now turned to getting the maximum out of the car at Suzuka.
“It would be wrong to say ‘fully understand’,” Lowe said. “We understand quite a lot more from our analysis in the last few days, but in the end, any theory you come up with, however well computed or analyzed, you’ve actually got to go and do an experiment so it would be arrogant to assume we’ve got all of those definite answers and we know they will work.
“We can’t do those experiments clearly at a difffernet track, so our focus has been on getting the best out of the car for Japan which is a very different track and seeing if we can win this race.
“But we don’t take that for granted. Ferrari and Red Bull are very, very strong competition. They did a great job in Singapore, and we had no assumption that even if we’d done a fantastic job of getting out setup correct for Singapore that we would automatically have been at the front. We could well not have been.”
Lowe said that the fluctuating form for all of the teams was understandable given the varying characteristics of the tracks raced on in recent weeks, ranging from the streets of Singapore to the high-speed circuits in Belgium and Italy.
“We don’t take for granted that things are static, because they’re not in this sport,” Lowe said. “People are developing all the time. Ferrari and Red Bull bring updates to chassis and engine.
“We’ve had a lot of different races over the past month or so all with unique characteristics so there’s no assumption that we’re automatically going to be back to normal here, whatever normal means.
“It’s a fresh race. We come in without any assumption of our performance and we go and do the best job we can.”