Optimistic about the season
A confident Michael Schumacher set his sights on a return to the Formula One podium on Tuesday after Mercedes unveiled the car that could make him a winner again.
"Finally the waiting is over and things get started," the 42-year-old seven-times world champion said before team-mate Nico Rosberg took the car out for a first installation lap at the Valencia circuit.
With Rosberg hailing the car as a big step up, despite completing only nine laps due to a hydraulics problem, Schumacher shook off the long winter break with a brief stint in the afternoon.
"I'm very optimistic about this, absolutely, yes," the winner of 91 races told reporters when asked whether he felt it was a car to carry him back to the top for the first time since he came back last year from the retirement he entered in 2006.
"Nothing has changed from what we have learned through the winter to the couple of laps we did today.
"I'm not worried in any way that we cannot fulfil our targets, and that is a minimum of podiums and hopefully victories," he added.
Image: Mercedes F1 Team Principal Ross Brown, drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher pose behind the MGP W02 during the presentation of the 2011 Mercedes F1 team in Cheste
'Break every year is hard to take'
Taking the wraps off the car in the Valencia pitlane, Schumacher had earlier expressed his relief at being back behind the wheel for the first time since November.
"For us drivers, the break every year is hard to take because the gap between the last race and the first time out on track seems to be never-ending," he said.
"Even if I have been involved and updated all winter on the developments, and even if I know the improvements are significant, it is still different to see the new car literally for the first time in front of you.
"I very much look forward to the new season. We have said it several times already but again, we are really building up to something big together," he added.
Image: Michael Schumacher
'I was rusty last season'
The former Ferrari ace disappointed many of his legion of fans in 2010 when he failed to get on the podium in his comeback season after three years out and the new Mercedes MGPW02 is key to his hopes of bringing back the glory days.
All drivers must wrestle with new Pirelli tyres after the departure of Bridgestone as sole provider, something that could favour Schumacher, and reporters were eager for any information on Tuesday about how he felt.
In a nutshell, he felt good.
"In physical strength I don't have margin to improve myself. I've always been top level, and that's no different to the start of last year," he explained.
"Yes, I was rusty (last season). But that's not the case now. I get into the car and I immediately feel at home. I know what to do, I know all the functions of the car, I know how to drive it.
"But the reference is not there yet. That will build up in the next days, I guess," he added.
Image: Michael Schumacher