The two Mercedes drivers greatly enjoy their annual visit to Australia and head to the first race of 2011 full of optimism after a good display in the final pre-season test session last week.
Michael Schumacher has won the Australian Grand Prix on four occasions and thinks that his team are well-prepared as he looks to claim the 92nd race victory of his career.
“Australia has always been one of the highlights on the Formula One calendar in all my years of competing,” said the seven-time world champion. “It is the atmosphere which makes Albert Park so special, and when you see all of the fans having fun, that just gives you a great feeling of how motorsport can be.
“I am lucky enough to have a lot of good memories from Melbourne: it's a venue where I have won four times and those races will always be very special. I'm sure it will be a great weekend, and an exciting season-opener. I'm looking forward to getting to the paddock on Thursday.”
“We are well prepared,” he added. “All of the hard work over the winter will start to come together over the first few races and then we will know more about the position we are in, and what still needs to be achieved as Formula One never stands still of course. I feel very 'at home' with the team after one year of working together and this experience has really benefited our pre-season preparations.”
Nico Rosberg explains that he also has fond memories from previous races in Melbourne, and thinks that this year’s car is a big improvement on last season’s effort.
“I love visiting Australia and Melbourne is one of the most chilled-out cities on the calendar so it's a cool venue for the first race of the season,” said the German. “I'm travelling out early to get acclimatised to the time zone and am looking forward to training by the beach and relaxing in St Kilda in the evenings.
“The Australian fans are so enthusiastic which is great to see and it makes the atmosphere around Albert Park very special. The circuit holds some great memories for me from achieving my first podium here in 2008, and I have finished in the points in the last four races.”
“We're in good shape,” he said, assessing the team’s chances for the first race. “The team and car have progressed a lot over the winter, we're pleased with the performance from our upgrades and the car is handling well. Our aim is to make a good step forward from last season and I am confident that we will be able to achieve this.”
The drivers have reason to be cheerful. Team Principal Ross Brawn thinks that, whatever their level of performance compared to their rivals in Australia, Mercedes can respond and become increasingly more competitive.
“Our pre-season programme has gone as well as we could have wanted,” Brawn explained. “However, as always, the first race will be the real measure of where we are in terms of competitiveness. Everyone is eagerly waiting to see how the grid shakes out in Melbourne, and wherever we find ourselves, we will respond accordingly.
“Our ability to react strongly has improved considerably over the past twelve months and we have a robust development plan in place for the season. 2011 will be the second season with our drivers, Michael and Nico, and this continuity, together with our well-established relationships, has enabled both the drivers and team to prepare well for the challenges ahead.
“I believe that we can expect a very exciting season in 2011. The strategic battle is going to be fascinating with the Pirelli tyres, combined with the new adjustable rear wing and the return of KERS, increasing the challenges for the teams and drivers, and hopefully providing lots of track action for the fans.
“The Australian Grand Prix is always a fantastic motorsport weekend, and with the added excitement of being the first race of the season this year, we are all looking forward to the racing starting again next week.”