Schumacher laughs off Turn Eight error
Michael Schumacher believes Mercedes have closed in on pace-setters Red Bull at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The 41-year-old German secured his best qualifying result since returning from a three-year retirement by taking fifth place on the grid at Istanbul Park.
Red Bull and McLaren occupy the four places ahead of him, but Schumacher said: "We have got closer.
"The guys have done a great job with the aerodynamic upgrades. They have moved us closer to the top."
Schumacher's performance marks a significant step forward for Mercedes.
He was 1.3 seconds behind Mark Webber's pace-setting Red Bull at the Spanish Grand prix two races ago, 0.764secs adrift in Monaco and only 0.562secs behind in Turkey.
He said he was pleased the car had moved forward as a result of new developments introduced for Turkey - a new diffuser and the return of the F-duct aerodynamic device that the team first used in Spain.
It was a good qualifying performance from the team after a lot of hard work here at the track and back at the factory on the latest developments for our car
Mercedes team principal
He said: "The long wheelbase car is basically the same car we had in Barcelona but with aerodynamic upgrades.
"I have to thank all the guys at home who have done a great job.
"If you remember where we had been at a similar track in Barcelona and where we are now, I am quite thankful for the job they have done - it has definitely paid off."
Schumacher's team-mate Nico Rosberg qualified sixth - just 0.095secs behind - to give Mercedes sole rights to the third row.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was able to split the Red Bulls, showing that his team have also found a bit more pace.
Schumacher admitted both the McLarens and the Red Bulls had moved forward but suggested Mercedes' improvement was greater.
"It is not a surprise [that Red Bull and McLaren have improved], but you have to say we have got closer," he said.
"That is really positive. I really think that we have made a step forward."
Schumacher was even able to laugh off an error he made that saw him spin off at Turn Eight on his final qualifying lap.
"I think the circuit somehow got tighter, someone moved the apex," he joked.
"What happened in Turn Eight was that it was my last go, the fast lap before was a good one, so obviously you try to push even more, especially as on this lap you can win time.
"I went out a bit wide and off it went."
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn was also happy with the qualifying results.
He said: "It was a good qualifying performance from the team after a lot of hard work here at the track and back at the factory on the latest developments for our car.
"Michael and Nico have been very evenly matched throughout the weekend and have worked well together to ensure that we have been able to get the new parts functioning and extract the maximum performance.
"Fifth and sixth positions on the grid gives us the potential to have a strong race tomorrow and we look forward to seeing what Nico and Michael can achieve.
"We've seen just how challenging the Istanbul Park track can be with Turn Eight catching out many drivers over the course of the day and Michael was no exception but thankfully there is no damage done."