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Michael Schumacher impresses at Valencia Formula 1 test

Michael Schumacher in the new Mercedes F1 car
Schumacher was ominously fast straight away in his first test for Mercedes

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Valencia

Michael Schumacher immediately outpaced team-mate Nico Rosberg as they put the first miles on the new Mercedes Formula 1 car in Valencia on Monday.

Rosberg set a one minute 13.543 seconds lap in the morning, but Schumacher beat that within 20 laps in the afternoon.

Schumacher's best time of 1:12.947 was third overall behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa.

Schumacher said he felt the same as at his first F1 test in 1991: "Shocked and excited, like I had a toy in my hands."

He added that "for the first day [with a new car] the team have done a superb job".

"It was a perfect roll-out for the new car," Schumacher said. "I felt totally comfortable and really had a feeling that everything was very natural.

The picture of Nico was clouded - we had one driver who did not fit the car properly and one who had not driven for three years

Ross Brawn
Mercedes team boss

"It felt just like at the very beginning of my career in 1991 when on the first lap, I thought 'wow that was really fast' and then on the second lap, I was just extremely excited.

"I feel like a young boy again and really enjoyed myself out there.

"We did a good job today, just making a few control checks, and the most important thing was that the car ran reliably.

"With Nico and I covering 79 laps between us, it was a superb job by the team."

Massa topped the times at the end of both the morning and afternoon sessions, with a best lap in the dying minutes of the day of 1:12.574. De la Rosa's best was a 1:12.784.

However, it is difficult to read too much into the times in terms of predicting form as it is impossible to know in what specification the cars were running - and particularly the amount of fuel they had on board. Track conditions can also change quickly through a day and affect cars' performance.

"My first impression of the car was very good," Rosberg said. "But it's too early to tell if it's a winner.

Felipe Massa in the new Ferrari at the Valencia test
Massa was fastest of all in the new Ferrari on Monday

"Everything went smoothly. But we have not been on this track for such a long time so it is difficult to compare.

"And with the fuel levels you don't know what people are doing."

Asked how he felt about having Schumacher as his team-mate, Rosberg said: "For me it is great to have Michael Schumacher. It has given me the extra motivation, which is a good thing."

Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn said that Rosberg had been hampered by not being comfortable in the car - he was complaining of poor visibility because he was sitting too low.

"It was good to run both drivers," Brawn said. "The picture of Nico was clouded - we had one driver who did not fit the car properly and one who had not driven for three years.

"Michael was very enthusiastic, that was good to see - it was confirmation of what we had thought, that he would be competitive.

"Ferrari have clearly got a good car, but it's too early to say [on the relative pace of the cars]."

606: DEBATE
deperer

The three-day session is the first of four in February before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14.

German car maker Mercedes bought out the Brawn GP team last year following their victories in both the drivers' and constructors' championships.

Schumacher, who turned 41 in January, has returned to the sport after a three-year retirement.

He originally quit F1 in 2006, leaving Ferrari after winning five of his seven world titles with the Italian marque between 2001 and 2004.

Of last season's main protagonists, only Red Bull are missing in Spain.

Renault and Sauber both launched their 2010 cars on Sunday with Toro Rosso and Mercedes doing likewise on Monday.

The new Toro Rosso car
Toro Rosso also unveiled their new car at Valencia on Monday

Mercedes new "Silver Arrow" looks radically different to the championship-winning 2009 Brawn.

The design incorporated a Red Bull-style sculpted nose, which sloped steeply forwards, and a tapered shark fin wing over the engine cover.

The new ban of refuelling during races means the chassis is noticeably longer to accommodate higher fuel loads.

With customer cars now prohibited, Toro Rosso have designed their 2010 car themselves rather than relying on last year's design principles handed down by sister team Red Bull.

"The STR5 is a case of evolution not revolution," explained chief designer Ben Butler.

"It is easy to say there is little change between the 2009 and 2010 cars but there have been a lot of significant evolutions that we have put in place which hopefully will prove competitive once the racing starts."

Renault launch 2010 car in Valencia

Team boss Franz Tost has set limited ambitions for the team.

"There's no point in making predictions for the season, but at a push I would say our dream would be to finish in the top eight of the constructors standings," he said.

Sebastien Buemi took the new Toro Rosso straight out onto the track while team-mate Jaime Alguersuari must wait until Wednesday.



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see also
F1 winter testing photos
03 Feb 10 |  Formula 1
Massa delighted with new Ferrari
01 Feb 10 |  Formula 1
Reluctant Sauber launches new car
31 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Mercedes promise Rosberg equality
25 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher feels as good as ever
20 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher 'very happy' with test
14 Jan 10 |  Formula 1


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