Mercedes to delay test debut of 2012 car

Mercedes GP MGP W02 detail.

Dec.6 (Reuters) Mercedes will delay the track debut of their 2012 Formula One car – designated the MGP-W03 – until the second test of the season in Barcelona on 21 February 2012, less than a month before the opening race in Australia, the team said on Monday.

Mercedes also announced that their official team name would change to Mercedes AMG Petronas to bring in Mercedes-Benz performance brand AMG.

AMG already supplies the sport with both the safety car and medical car and Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug said there would be a technology transfer between the partners.

“At the factory, we have been focused for some time on the challenge of 2012, and our very clear ambition to move forward up the grid next year,” said team principal Ross Brawn in a statement.

“As always, the winter development and manufacturing processes are a trade-off between time for finding performance in the factory, and time for delivering that performance during pre-season testing.

“We believe that the decision to run the car at the second winter test is the optimum compromise for our design and development programme with F1 W03.”

Under new rules for 2012, cars can take part in testing only when they have passed the mandatory FIA race crash tests.

That means teams have to decide whether to maximise development and miss out on testing or get in as much track time as possible while signing off the design process earlier than they might have wished.

Mercedes finished the 2011 season fourth overall with German drivers Nico Rosberg and seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.

Rosberg has yet to win a race while Schumacher, 42, has not been on the podium since he began his comeback in 2010 after three years out.

The new season starts in Melbourne on March 18, which allows Mercedes just eight days of testing before heading for Australia.

“It’s not a big problem, it’s a very deliberate decision on our part for a variety of reasons,” Mercedes team CEO Nick Fry told reporters in a conference call.

“The first one is giving ourselves the maximum amount of time to develop performance and because the two tests are two weeks apart, we believe we are better off spending that additional time on developing the performance side.

“Most of the top teams are now very good at simulation,” added Fry.

“You can rest assured that before the car physically hits the track…we will have done a substantial amount of work here at the factory both rig testing the car in its entirety, rig testing parts of the car and also of course working on the driver in the simulator.”

Fry, who helped steer the Mercedes team’s predecessors Brawn GP to both 2009 titles, pointed out that Brawn had minimal testing and still came out with a world-beater.

“We think the time is better invested in development rather than driving physically on the track in the first test,” he said.