Brawn hopeful as Schumacher tops times

Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher set the fastest time on the fourth and final day of pre-season testing here on Friday.

Updated: Mar 12, 2011, 10:15 AM IST

Barcelona: Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher set the fastest time on the fourth and final day of pre-season testing here on Friday.

Schumacher, preparing for his second season with Mercedes since coming out of retirement, clocked 1min 21.268sec, with another former champion, Fernando Alonso, in second in his Ferrari.

Schumacher’s team-mate, Nico Rosberg, took third.

The German F1 legend endured a low-key return last season, finishing ninth behind his compatriot Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, but Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn said he was “quite encouraged” by Schumacher’s performance at the Circuit de Catalunya.

He added: “Red Bull has clearly gone into this year in quite a strong position and that is who I anticipate will be our reference point in the early point of the season.

“That is who we have to beat to win races. So that is my judgement, but I don’t think it is unachievable and things change quite quickly in F1.”
Schumacher said Mercedes were developing their car “step by step”.

“The main issue we had here at the test was trying to find the right balance, and optimising the car performance,” he added.

“It has worked pretty well, so we are looking forward to going to Australia to be in a reasonably strong position. I am not sure everyone has opened their cards completely yet but that is something to be seen in Australia.”

“All I can say that we have seen on Saturday here that our package seems to work reasonably well, but has everyone shown their true potential? That is something that we will find out in Australia.”

Brawn believes that the raft of changes introduced this season may mean that quickest is not necessarily best.

“The racing is going to be quite fascinating with the tyres and all the other new factors, the rear flap adjuster, KERS, all these things coming in.

“So it may not be the fastest car that is winning the early races."
“We will be pretty respectable in Melbourne, but I honestly don’t know where people are at the moment because I don’t know what fuel loads people are running.”

Team Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen was thrilled with his ninth place, after completing 138 laps, to out-pace the two Force India cars of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil.

“That is obviously a fantastic end to the tests,” the Finn told the sport’s official website, F1.com.

Williams, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren return for one final day of testing on Saturday, with the rest of the teams returning to their factories to fine-tune their cars ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 27.

Bureau Report