Schumacher, Mercedes look to turn F1 fortunes

Valencia: Michael Schumacher`s hopes
of turning around his return to Formula One began Tuesday in
testing the new Mercedes car.

The 42-year-old Schumacher, a seven-time F1 champion, was
set to drive at the Cheste Circuit after teammate Nico
Rosberg, who gave the car a positive review after a brief
first spin in the morning.

Both Schumacher and Mercedes are looking to rebound from
a disappointing 2010 season. Schumacher was ninth in the
drivers` standings while Mercedes never really challenged
champion Red Bull or closest rivals Ferrari and McLaren.

Still, Schumacher was optimistic that the slick,
high-gloss graphite livery he unveiled alongside Rosberg and
team principal Ross Brawn was innovative enough to make the
German team a contender this year.

"Finally the waiting is over and things get started,"
Schumacher said. "We have said it several times already but
again, we are really to building up something big together. I
am very confident that this season we will be standing on the
podium much more regularly, ideally in the middle."

Schumacher came out of a three-year retirement to compete
in 2010. But the former Brawn GP team`s inability to match the
front-runners soured the seven-time champion`s return.

Mercedes took less than half as many points as
constructors` champion Red Bull, and Rosberg had nearly double
as many points as Schumacher by the end of the season. Rosberg
also managed three podiums and Schumacher none.

Brawn said the MGP W02 featured "a raft of technical
innovations and changes" that make it "almost unrecognizable"
from its predecessor.

"After our first year as the Mercedes-Benz works team, we
are now seeing the benefits of our chassis group and our
engine group working well together," Brawn said. "We want to
be setting the standard right from the start but if we are
not, we will respond very strongly to get ourselves into the
game. Everyone is excitedly waiting to see what the new season
will reveal."

Rosberg, who said he felt right at home in the car
despite only running nine laps, said the experience of driving
with Schumacher last season would help him for the upcoming

"I know it`s going to be difficult this year. It`s going
to be a tough battle with Michael but hopefully I can be ahead
again," the German driver said before dismissing the notion
that Schumacher would not recover his best form. "Who`s saying
it wasn`t the old Michael last year? A Silver Arrow with the
seven-time champion, you always have to be wary of that."

Schumacher will have further time to prepare for the
season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13 with three more
tests coming after the three-day session in Valencia.

Bureau Report

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