Michael Schumacher finished third fastest in both practice sessions on Friday in Barcelona and, crucially, was faster than teammate Nico Rosberg on both occasions.
So far this season seven-time world champion Schumacher has been consistently off the pace of his young teammate, but here he has taken advantage of several upgrades made by Mercedes, which are said to be tailored to suit Schumacher’s driving style.
Speaking after the two second session, Schumacher said that he was pleased with the changes to his MGP 01. “Today I felt much more comfortable in the car and feel that it is behaving more consistently. In my view, our upgrade is a step forward but we have to wait and see how big the step is as the other teams have obviously improved as well.
“Now we have to deeply analyse the data to get a better overview on the actual situation and as usual after the Friday practice sessions, it is difficult to estimate where you actually are in comparison to our competitors. We will only have the real picture after qualifying tomorrow.”
Rosberg, who ended the day over half a second of the pace of his teammate, expects his car to be set-up improved by the time he goes out for qualifying. “It was a challenging day for me today and not where I usually end up after the Friday practice sessions. There are no obvious issues on the aero package but we went wrong on the set-up whilst trying something new. I am confident that we will make progress overnight and tomorrow we will be able to extract the full potential from the car.”
Team principal Ross Brawn was pleased with the performance of the new parts, but still doesn’t think that Mercedes can compete right at the front of the field just yet. “We had a reasonable day and covered a great deal of work to gather all of the set-up information that we needed with our upgrade package. Michael and Nico followed different programmes and therefore this evening we need to bring all of the data together and decide how we run the cars tomorrow.
“The new developments performed pretty much as we expected however all of the teams have moved forward here and the target is constantly moving. It looks like we have kept up but we still have to find more pace to compete right at the front.”
Norbert Haug echoed Brawn’s sentiments, and thinks that they team will find out exactly where they are in relation to their rivals qualifying. “Our upgrade package for the start of the European season seems to work as anticipated and it was visible on track and on the timing sheets that Michael was quicker and felt more comfortable today than at the last race in China three weeks ago.
“Nico was less happy with his car today but the data after the session shows where we went in the wrong direction with the set-up so Nico should be back tomorrow to the strength that he showed in the previous four races. Our pace during the race simulations didn’t look too bad but there is definitely still quite a gap to the quickest cars. We will work hard to make another step tomorrow.
“Today it is not possible to judge whether the competitive order has changed compared to the last races but everybody will find out tomorrow.”