Red Bull are again favourites for the coming Formula One season, seven-time champion Michael Schumacher said on Thursday.
After a third day of testing at Barcelona, following two days in which the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel set the pace, Schumacher said the question now appeared to be who was fastest behind the Red Bulls.
“We clearly know Red Bull is very strong, and they are the team you have to look at,” he said.
The 42-year-old German meanwhile was optimistic Mercedes was improving ahead of the season start at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 27.
The team has been using the Barcelona sessions — the last tests before the start of the season — to try out a new wing construction among other modifications on the MGP W02.
“I guess we’re not quite in this position but I wasn’t expecting to be in this position right now.
“The season is long and there is a big question mark as to who is coming behind Red Bull, and I hope we play a sufficient role in that.
“I know where we are, and we are working very well. We are on the progress curve like we want to be.” Schumacher was fifth fastest at the Circuit de Catalunya on a day when the fastest time was set by Mexican Sergio Perez in a Sauber-Ferrari, followed by Felipe Massa in a Ferrari and Webber.
Sauber revealed, however, that Perez, who beat Vettel’s fastest time set Wednesday, ran on low fuel and the softest type of tyres.
World champion Vettel took a break, while McLaren also sat out testing but will return for the final two days.