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Mat Coch writes:
Mercedes has proved that it is now a genuine contender capable of challenging the established leaders of the pack. A strong pre-season was backed up by equally strong performances during the opening practice sessions in Melbourne, leaving the team disappointed to have qualified just fourth and seventh.
"It's very clear that we're moving forward, and that's great news," beamed Nico Rosberg. "I feel there's still some way to go from what we have to really get the most out of it - maybe the others are in the same situation. I can say that we still have some way to go but all this together is definitely looking much better."
Much of the progress is a result of the new car, which both drivers say is easier and more rewarding to drive. "If you look at the steering manoeuvres you have to do in corners they're probably half of what I had to do last year," Schumacher explained. "It's definitely much more of a racing car."
"You can definitely feel that this car is faster and more competitive," Rosberg agreed. "Even though it's difficult to compare it to other cars and things like that, it's just more together, you can attack more and it feels faster."
After topping the timesheets at the end of second practice the team had high hopes. With Red Bull comparatively struggling it's an open invitation for the German squad to capitalise. The team has displayed solid long run performance, suggesting it can't be ruled out of contention for tomorrow's race.
Schumacher is cautiously optimistic, targeting a podium to start with though not ruling out the prospect of wins later in the season. "I'm not dreaming too much about winning this race. Yes we're in fourth but we've got strong guys in front of us.
"We'll hopefully have a chance to jump on the podium. That's not completely unrealistic," he added. "To win from when we are it's really too early to really talk about"
In 2011 the team managed just seventh and tenth in the first qualifying session of the new season.
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