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Ferrari are the team to beat, says Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher says he was premature in writing off his chances of a winning start

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at the Circuit de Catalunya

Michael Schumacher says Ferrari are the team in the best shape for the start of the season as testing comes to a close.

The 41-year-old, who will drive for Mercedes this year after three years in retirement, said: "Felipe [Massa] and Fernando [Alonso] look the target.

"Ferrari have done very good testing and things look good. I know them and there are good reasons to be happy."

He also backtracked on earlier remarks that his Mercedes team could probably not win the first race.

After testing in Barcelona on Friday, when he was more than a second slower than Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, the 41-year-old was asked if he could win the first race.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso

Alonso optimistic over title chances

Schumacher, who won five of his record seven world titles for Ferrari, replied: "Maybe not. I can't make judgements on other teams but we are not perfectly in the position we would like to be, which is competitive to win straight away."

But in a news conference on Saturday, he said: "I did not only say this on Friday - I said this right away from the beginning that we might not be in a position to win the first races.

"But that is not really important as you have to win by the end of the season and not the beginning.

"Probably this could be the case although I mentioned it on Friday after not studying the data.

If we're not in a position to win the first two races, I wouldn't worry at all

Michael Schumacher

"This was an initial feeling and it looks like that maybe we were running more fuel than others on Friday and that is why track times didn't look so good.

"Now I've looked at the data it looks not so bad, it looks very reasonable. So let's see where we are in reality."

The driver who has won the first grand prix has gone on to win the title every year since 2006, but Schumacher played down the need to be competitive at the start of the season.

"I think of it firstly as a three-year programme," he said. "I see secondly that it is important what happens at the end of the season and not the beginning.

"These are the two main important things. If we're not in a position to win the first two races, I wouldn't worry at all.

"If we are two seconds off the pace then we may start to worry but I don't think that's the case.

"The car is going forwards, we have a plan to develop the car. The majority of the running this winter has been for reliability.

"I'm here to fight for the title and I'm sure we'll be in the position, whether we can achieve it or not is another matter.

It will be close between four teams in Bahrain, with Ferrari a bit ahead and then Mercedes, McLaren and us

Sebastian Vettel
Red Bull driver

"Yesterday I was a little bit pessimistic but after studying the data last night actually it looks more reasonable than I thought."

Schumacher added that he thought "several teams look very competitive".

Saturday is the penultimate day of pre-season testing. Schumacher, who has handed over to team-mate Nico Rosberg, will be back behind the wheel of the Mercedes for the final day at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.

Rosberg set the fastest time of testing on Saturday, recording a one minute 20.686 seconds lap during a qualifying simulation early on before rain ruined the rest of the morning's running.

Although the track dried out in the afternoon, the German's time stayed unbeaten for the rest of the day.

Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso was second fastest on 1:21.413, just ahead of Jenson Button's McLaren (1:21.450), Rubens Barrichello's Williams (1:21.975) and Massa (1:22.344).

Massa's time was set in the course of a race simulation, while the other fastest times were all in short runs.

Jon Mason

Rosberg said: "It was a positive day, with a lot of running.

"We ran with less fuel in the morning to nail the set-up but made good progress and improved.

"After lunch we did long runs and race simulations and learned a lot of things.

"In general there is no absolute weakness with the car. We just need to extract maximum from it and we're close to that but the big package is coming in Bahrain."

Massa said he had been encouraged by the new aerodynamic parts that Ferrari have at this test.

"I had a very positive impression: you can feel more grip and more downforce," the Brazilian said. "It's encouraging, because it means that we made another step ahead compared to (the preceding test in) Jerez."

Schumacher's views on Ferrari's pace were echoed by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

He said: "It looks extremely close at the moment, although Ferrari have a bit of an advantage now.

"That might change before Bahrain but nevertheless it will be close between four teams with Ferrari a bit ahead and then Mercedes, McLaren and us.

"Four teams and eight drivers, it's busy if only one can win."

Times from Saturday's test session at the Circuit de Catalunya:

1. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:20.686
2. Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:21.413 (+0.727secs)
3. Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.450 (+0.764)
4. Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Williams-Cosworth 1:21.975 (+1.289)
5. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:22.344 (+1.658)
6. Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:22.523 (+1.837)
7. Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:22.606s (+1.920)
8. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault 1:23.254s (+2.568)
9. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus-Cosworth 1:25.059s (+4.373)
10. Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.216s (+5.530)
11. Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:26.305s (+5.619)

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see also
Button backs McLaren to improve
27 Feb 10 |  Formula 1
Saturday testing as it happened
27 Feb 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher rules out early wins
26 Feb 10 |  Formula 1

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