Schumacher, Mercedes look to turn F1 fortunes

Valencia (Spain), Feb 1 (AP) Michael Schumacher''s hopesof turning around his return to Formula One began Tuesday intesting the new Mercedes car.

The 42-year-old Schumacher, a seven-time F1 champion, wasset to drive at the Cheste Circuit after teammate NicoRosberg, who gave the car a positive review after a brieffirst spin in the morning.

Both Schumacher and Mercedes are looking to rebound froma disappointing 2010 season. Schumacher was ninth in thedrivers'' standings while Mercedes never really challengedchampion Red Bull or closest rivals Ferrari and McLaren.

Still, Schumacher was optimistic that the slick,high-gloss graphite livery he unveiled alongside Rosberg andteam principal Ross Brawn was innovative enough to make theGerman team a contender this year.

"Finally the waiting is over and things get started,"Schumacher said. "We have said it several times already butagain, we are really to building up something big together. Iam very confident that this season we will be standing on thepodium much more regularly, ideally in the middle."

Schumacher came out of a three-year retirement to competein 2010. But the former Brawn GP team''s inability to match thefront-runners soured the seven-time champion''s return.

Mercedes took less than half as many points asconstructors'' champion Red Bull, and Rosberg had nearly doubleas many points as Schumacher by the end of the season. Rosbergalso managed three podiums and Schumacher none.

Brawn said the MGP W02 featured "a raft of technicalinnovations and changes" that make it "almost unrecognizable"from its predecessor.

"After our first year as the Mercedes-Benz works team, weare now seeing the benefits of our chassis group and ourengine group working well together," Brawn said. "We want tobe setting the standard right from the start but if we arenot, we will respond very strongly to get ourselves into thegame. Everyone is excitedly waiting to see what the new seasonwill reveal."

Rosberg, who said he felt right at home in the cardespite only running nine laps, said the experience of drivingwith Schumacher last season would help him for the upcomingcampaign.

"I know it''s going to be difficult this year. It''s goingto be a tough battle with Michael but hopefully I can be aheadagain," the German driver said before dismissing the notionthat Schumacher would not recover his best form. "Who''s sayingit wasn''t the old Michael last year? A Silver Arrow with theseven-time champion, you always have to be wary of that."

Schumacher will have further time to prepare for theseason-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 13 with three moretests coming after the three-day session in Valencia. (AP) AT

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