Michael Schumacher is looking with optimism towards this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix after the encouraging pace shown by Mercedes in Melbourne. The 43 year old retired with a gearbox problem but qualified fourth and was up to third in the early stages of the race, suggesting that the Brackley-based team have made a step forward this season.
The Sepang circuit provides one of the sternest tests of the season for car, driver and the tyres and Schumacher expects the competitive order to be even clearer by the end of the weekend.
“After the disappointment of how the first race in Melbourne turned out, I am flying to Malaysia with a big sense of anticipation, because we saw in Australia that our car is capable of putting us in the mix. Of course, we haven't forgotten that the circuit in Melbourne is not really representative of the true competitive picture, but nevertheless the car gives me a good feeling for the season ahead. Sepang will be interesting for everybody because it will be the first clue to the real relative strengths of all the cars. The range of slow and fast corners give a good indication of where you are, which always makes the race in Malaysia fun for the drivers and engineers, and overall a big challenge for both man and machine. I'm looking forward to it.”
Teammate Nico Rosberg made contact with Sergio Perez on the final lap which left him outside the points but the German is also staying positive. Mercedes' much discussed rear wing configuration has appeared to give them a straight-line advantage which Rosberg thinks will come in very handy this weekend.
“I always look forward to coming to Malaysia for the Grand Prix. Sepang is one of my absolute favourite tracks on the calendar and it is the home race of our friends from PETRONAS. The circuit has two long straights which should suit us this year, and the conditions will be very demanding as always due to the high heat and humidity. I'm confident that we can improve our performance here, and we will have a successful weekend in front of all our Malaysian supporters.”
Team Principal Ross Brawn is mindful that the team didn't reach its full potential in Australia and has challenged his outfit to put that right this weekend.
“The Malaysian Grand Prix is always a special race for the team as the home race of our title partner PETRONAS. As always, the support that PETRONAS provides to Formula One, both to our team and to the promotion of the sport and the Grand Prix in Malaysia, has been fantastic, and we are all looking forward to a busy and successful week. Despite a positive start, our first race weekend of the season in Australia did not turn out as we would have wished, and there has been, and will continue to be, a lot of hard work done before we take to the track again in Malaysia. We have a fundamentally good car, now it is up to us to optimise its performance and achieve its potential on track.”
Norbert Haug, Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, believes the team's race day difficulties were down to unexpectedly high levels of tyre degradation and hopes they will be on top of the problem in Kuala Lumpur.
“Last weekend in Melbourne, we began the race well, with our cars running third and fourth, and ended it badly, with Michael retiring from P3, while Nico suffered a puncture on the last lap after contact with another car while fighting for sixth place. Before this, Nico’s lap times were affected by higher levels of tyre degradation than ourselves and Pirelli had expected from testing and the practice sessions in Melbourne. Our team will be working hard to understand and, where possible, correct this before the next race in Malaysia.”