x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Michael Schumacher expects better season

The seven-time Formula One world champion had a poor comeback into the sport last year but is feeling good after his Mercedes car fared well in pre-season testing.

Michael Schumacher believes he will be in a position to fight for victories this season.

A week ago, after the second day of the final four-day testing session for Mercedes team in Barcelona, Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of the sport, had ruled out such a prospect.

Some 24 hours later the seven-time world champion said his head had been turned by a significant upgrade package that had propelled his car to the fastest time of the nine testing days at the Circuit de Catalunya.

With the new F1 season starting next weekend with the Australian Grand Prix, Schumacher admits his feeling now "is a good one. The team has been working very hard over the winter to shape our car in all of the areas which had been identified by us as needing improvement.

"The data I have seen over the winter had been quite encouraging, but then we all know the realities of data and the racetrack can be quite different.

"As a driver you obviously hope for a good step forward and I think this is what we have achieved.

"I am confident we can compete for podium finishes, and I am hopeful we can fight for victories at some of the races.

"Saying that, we will only see the truth once the season gets under way, so I can hardly wait to go to Melbourne to finally see what the real picture is."

Crucially for Schumacher, the winner of 91 races in his career, he now feels more at home within Mercedes after more than a year working with the team following his return to the sport after a three-year retirement from racing, appreciating he was still rusty after his spell on the sidelines.

"This year feels very different indeed," added the 42-year-old German.

"Last year everything was new again - the testing situation, the car, the team, the structures.

"It was very exciting, but it was still something you had to find your way through. Now, one year later, I know much better which areas to work in. I am much more familiar with the team and we have a great group of very skilled and dedicated people. I enjoy what I do, I enjoy working with Mercedes, and I have never regretted my decision to return."

Schumacher's teammate, Nico Rosberg, is equally optimistic.

"Our main target is to improve on our performances from last year," he said, "[and] we have a good platform to do that.