With the new Mercedes looking quick and dependable during its 4,250 kilometres of winter testing, fans are hopeful 2012 might see the team finally take on the frontrunners. But while driver Michael Schumacher is satisfied with how their pre-season preparations have progressed, he’s playing down the speculation before the season is fully underway.
“The car is dependable which is already good,” he told his official website. “The first impressions have been already quite positive. We were drove out of the box and everything went well, so there is potential. We are heading into the season much better equipped than in the past two years, and we can fully deliberate onto the development of our car.
“The speed is promising. I hope we can show that in Melbourne. We were able to drive a lot during the tests and therefore learnt a lot too, and we surely have made a step forward. I would just want to wait until after the first races to judge how big this step is and how much it is worth compared to our competitors.”
Last year, Mercedes finished testing on a high, confident of achieving much at the first race. But, in reality, the MGP W02 failed to match their prospect and the team struggled for much of 2011 to compete with their front-running rivals, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. A wary Schumacher is worried they could fall into a similar trap this year, despite his belief the field as a whole will be much closer.
“We experienced last year that you can be very wrong relying on the data coming out of the winter tests,” the seven-time world champion explained. “And because we can see that the field will be very narrow this year. I do not have a clear picture yet. What we can say though is that the gap connecting the several teams will not be as big as it has been last year.
“Victory to me is not likely, I see Red Bull in front. Behind them it will be tight, and you can be either hero or zero very quickly. It will come down a lot to the skill of how well you set up your car to the respective track.”
Schumacher will take a trip to Melbourne next week for the Australian season opener which will take place in Albert Park from March 16-18.