Schumacher 'concerned' about pace
By Lee McKenzie and Andrew Benson
Michael Schumacher admits that he is "slightly concerned" about the pace of the new Mercedes so far in testing.
The German legend, 42, told BBC Sport in an exclusive interview that it was important for Mercedes to improve on a disappointing 2010 campaign.
But he said it would be "difficult" for Mercedes to win races at the start of the season next month.
"Yes, we are slightly concerned but then on the other hand we know where we will and want to go to," he said.
"The first race will tell us truly what is the situation."
The season starts in Bahrain on 13 March and Formula 1 teams are currently in the middle of their pre-season testing programme.
Naturally if you are quickest all the time that would be the perfect situation but we know coming from last year this is not possible
After a frustrating time at the first test in Valencia from 1-3 February, where team principal Ross Brawn admitted they were not on the pace of the fastest cars, the Mercedes has appeared to be more competitive in Jerez this week.
After three of the four days of running, Schumacher has set the fastest time in Jerez with a lap he recorded on the second day. He admitted it was on the gripper 'super-soft tyres' that many of the other teams had not run.
And he was third fastest overall on Saturday, behind Nick Heidfeld in the Renault and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
Schumacher returned to F1 last season with Mercedes after three years in retirement but he and Mercedes struggled all season.
The car was uncompetitive and Schumacher was out-paced for much of the year by team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Schumacher, who was talking on Thursday before driving the car in Jerez, added: "I don't think we managed to do as many miles as we wanted at the first test.
"Lap times, yes they are important but maybe not right now. Naturally if you are quickest all the time that would be the perfect situation but we know coming from last year this is not possible and we have to build up our way."
The Mercedes is not yet on the pace of the fastest new cars
Last year was Mercedes's first as an entrant of its own team since 1955 after the company bought the Brawn team that won the drivers' and constructors' world titles in 2009.
Mercedes have made it clear that their target is to win the world championship.
Schumacher said: "For the team it is very important to climb the ladder and have more success than last year.
"We are Mercedes and we have a very clear target. It is going to be difficult to meet this target straight away this year particularly after last year's experience.
"But it is a programme and a vision for more than just the short term."
Schumacher added that making effective use of the tyres would be critical to success this year following Pirelli's replacement of Bridgestone as F1's supplier.
The Italian company have been asked to provide tyres that degrade more quickly in the hope of providing more exciting racing and teams are working hard in testing to make them last as long as possible.
Schumacher said he had not yet had enough running to know how well the Mercedes was in tune with them.
"We have a character of car that we built up," he said, "but we have a new character of tyres and how much they will be in harmony is difficult to say at this moment in time.
"It seemed less important last year and is more important this year."