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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 10:13 GMT
Renault, McLaren 'will set pace'
Fernando Alonso's Renault is chased by the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen in Formula One pre-season testing
Renault and McLaren have looked impressive in pre-season testing
Renault and McLaren have faster cars than Ferrari with the start of the Formula One season less than three weeks away, Ralf Schumacher says.

The German Toyota driver, who formed his impressions watching pre-season testing, said: "It is pretty clear the strongest are Renault and McLaren.

"Renault are slightly ahead of McLaren. Then comes Ferrari, although they do look strong in the long runs.

"Then it's Williams, BAR and us," he told the website of Autosport magazine.

"We should not be far away from them and I expect us to be relatively close to BAR."

In the last few weeks, the F1 teams have been preparing intensively for the new season at various tracks in Spain.

By mid-season, we should be among the top five, meaning that we beat BAR and Williams
Ralf Schumacher
Toyota driver

When it comes to judging how cars are performing, individual lap times are relatively meaningless because it is impossible to know how much fuel or what type of tyres are being using.

But informed observers are able to form a picture of how the cars compare by looking at their average performance when they do 20 or so laps consecutively.

And most say that there is little to choose between Ferrari, who are starting the season with an updated version of last year's car, and the new models produced by Renault and McLaren.

Schumacher, who has joined Toyota from Williams for this season, is also optimistic that the Japanese team will be able to make the promised step forward in competitiveness after three seasons in the midfield.

"By mid-season, we should be among the top five, meaning that we beat BAR and Williams," he said.

Ralf Schumacher's Toyota ahead of Mark Webber's Williams in pre-season Formula One testing
Schumacher hopes Toyota will be able to beat Williams in 2005
"I hope to be somewhere among BAR and Williams, and if we are lucky one or two podium finishes will be great."

Schumacher played down claims from team-mate Jarno Trulli that Toyota were struggling with their tyres on long runs - a potentially catastrophic problem in the face of new rules dictating that a single set of tyres must be used for qualifying and the race.

He said he expected the problem to be solved when the team introduced their definitive aerodynamic package just before the first race of the season in Melbourne on 6 March.

"In general, we are happy," Schumacher said.

"For the tyres, I think consistency will come with more downforce. It is clear that when you have more downforce it is easier on the tyres."

Trulli confesses Toyota problems
05 Feb 05 |  Formula One
Ferrari set new-car launch date
11 Feb 05 |  Formula One
Mosley warns F1 teams to improve
10 Feb 05 |  Formula One
Renault rev up for new season
02 Feb 05 |  Formula One
McLaren unveil Ferrari challenger
24 Jan 05 |  Formula One
Button buoyant after BAR testing
22 Jan 05 |  Formula One
Schumacher straight back on pace
18 Jan 05 |  Formula One

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