Michael Schumacher says he expects a long and hard fight for the Formula One title and believes finishing the season well will be more important than getting off to a good start.
The seven-time world champion, who is coming out of retirement for the new season, said on his website on Monday he was travelling to this weekend’s season opener in Bahrain with confidence.
However the 41-year-old German cautioned that the Mercedes GP car might not be in a position to win from the start.
“I said it quite clearly from the beginning: we do not have to — and probably will not — be in the position to win right from the start,” he said.
“It is important to be close and then use the long season to be at the top at the end. It is not the start which is important; it is the finish.” Schumacher said he was relishing the prospect of his first race in three years and expected the Mercedes team, which has taken over last season’s championship-winning Brawn GP, to be in the reckoning.
“Absolutely, yes,” he said to the question of whether he was ready for a fight for the title.
“This is what I am here for, and I am confident we can play a role in this fight.
“Whether we win it at the end will be a different question, as always in sports. But our entire team is extremely motivated, as am I. The guys have won both titles last year, and now, with Mercedes Power on board, they want to repeat this success.
“We all want to win. The season will be long and hard, no doubt about that, but I love this fight — it is because of this fight that I came back to Formula 1.” Schumacher said the Mercedes “has not been completely at the level” of the other teams’ cars during testing, but may have been driving with more fuel than the rivals.
“Our car also has not been at the final configuration — something we had deliberately wanted,” he said, adding that Mercedes had been focusing on “reliability and internal processes.” With no refuelling allowed during races from this season, saving tyres will be an important factor.
“You will have less sets of tyres available than last year which makes it harder to do what you need to do for setting up the car perfectly,” Schumacher said.
“But driving is always about adapting to new circumstance, and this is one of my strong points. I would say the biggest difference is the tyres. You will have to develop a good feeling for them.”