Michael Schumacher paid tribute to the Mercedes AMG Petronas team after he qualified on the second row for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix, his best grid position since returning to Formula One.
After finishing first and second in Q2, hopes were high that the Brackley based team could challenge for pole but Schumacher refused to be downhearted with fourth, pointing out that the team have made huge strides over the winter.
“The first qualifying session of the year proved to be as tight a competition as we had all hoped for. I am certainly happy with our performance which is a huge step forward, considering where we were in qualifying here last year. I can only thank the guys for all of the hard work that they have achieved over the winter. I also think it is important to stress that Mercedes-Benz have always believed in and supported this project, and I really hope we can deliver the results we all want. We have to take this step-by-step as the competition is very tight, so now we have to continue to work hard.”
Teammate Nico Rosberg made errors on his final Q3 attempt which left him down in seventh and although he acknowledged there was more pace in the car, he wasn't too disappointed with the outcome.
“We are happy to see that we have obviously improved the car over the winter. It seems that we can be strong in the race as well from what we learned during practice this weekend. Unfortunately I didn’t get the most out of it today. I didn’t quite find the right set-up as we have a lot of new things on the car and it will take a few races to get it working perfectly. I also made a small mistake on my last lap which cost me some time. Seventh place is still a good position though and I will be doing my best to move forward tomorrow.”
Team Principal Ross Brawn expects both drivers to be strong in the race after the running the team managed on race fuel in morning practice.
“From where we were twelve months ago, I believe we have seen a really good step forward here in Melbourne, and we have a great foundation to build on. We are very pleased with Michael’s fourth position today, and he did an excellent job. Nico didn’t get such a clean lap at the end, however he will have a very strong race from seventh place. We were able to spend some time running on high fuel this morning, and I am hopeful that will pay off tomorrow in the race.”
Norbert Haug was pleased to see both cars so close to the front and also congratulated Mercedes-powered driver Lewis Hamilton for his pole position.
“An encouraging result for us and more was possible today with Michael 0.034s behind P3 and Nico 0.035s behind P5. Michael did a good job whilst Nico locked up a wheel going into turn three which cost him lap time and didn’t help his left front tyre. The reigning World Champions and clear favourites for this season will be starting behind Michael which shows how surprising Formula One can be. Congratulations to Lewis and McLaren Mercedes for scoring the 32nd pole for Mercedes-Benz in the V8 era in the 109th Grand Prix since 2006. For the race, we should be in a good position and we will try to make the most out of it. A podium has to be our aim.”