Mercedes launch their new car - the W03 - for the 2012 season


Mercedes have launched their challenger for the 2012 season in Barcelona.

The team gave the W03 its first run at Silverstone last week before holding a private test in Barcelona on Sunday.

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has described the new car as "very responsive" after testing it for the first time.

Team boss Ross Brawn added: "The W03 is an elegant interpretation of the current regulations and a clear step forward over its predecessor."

After two consecutive fourth-placed finishes in the constructors' championship, there is a lot riding on the new W03.

Following a season in which Schumacher and team-mate Nico Rosberg failed to score a podium finish, Brawn admits that the team are under pressure to perform.

"We have to go forward," said Brawn. "None of us are happy with a recurring fourth place.

"That is not why any of us are here. But I am quietly confident, with the strength we have got, the resources we have got and the team we are building, that we can do that."

Mercedes are the only leading team to have waited until this week's second pre-season test in Barcelona to run their car seriously.

World champions Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari all had their 2012 cars ready in time for the first test in Jerez two weeks ago, where Mercedes concentrated on tyre testing with a modified version of last year's car.

Mercedes hoped to use the extra time in order to make its development stage as long as possible - theoretically an advantage.

But the decision means that they have only nine test days to prepare the car for the new season, compared with the other teams' 12.

Mercedes have added two experienced engineers to the team in former Ferrari technical director Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis, who has worked for Williams, Honda and Red Bull.

Brawn said he felt that their addition would make the team stronger.

"I don't know where we'll be with the car," he said. "I feel reasonably comfortable with what we've done.

"But, wherever we are, I'm sure we'll have a much stronger response than we were capable of in the past."

He predicted that the team would be in a position to challenge for podiums this season - a minimum target for an outfit whose ultimate ambition is to win the world championship.

"We are definitely ready to go for podiums," said Brawn.

"Any team that has not won the world championship has to look at how it can improve, how it can strengthen and how it can achieve better results.

Even if you win the world championship you still look at that."

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Schumacher test drives new Mercedes W03

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