Michael Schumacher could have won the Australian Grand Prix had he not gone off on the first lap, according to Mercedes boss Norbert Haug.
Haug said Schumacher could have been on the podium or even won the race had he not had to avoid the first-corner incident triggered by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. As it was, however, the seven-time champion finished down in 10th position.
Haug pointed out that Schumacher was ahead of eventual winner Jenson Button going into the first turn of the Albert Park circuit.
"He ran fourth ahead of the winner, went to the back and still came home in 10th place," said Haug. "You say he is struggling, but the reality is that he could have won the second race [of the season].
"We need to be fair when Michael comes back [to Formula 1] because the car is not where it should be," added Haug.
Schumacher has come under increased criticism for his performances in the first four grands prix of 2010 because of his poor showings relative to Mercedes Grand Prix teammate Nico Rosberg. The German has struggled with the MGP W01 due to its tendency to understeer, but Haug added that the gap between Mercedes' two drivers could not be solely attributed to the characteristics of the car.
"It is not fair to say Nico is fastest only due to the car. Maybe Nico is the fastest guy in the world," said Haug.
Mercedes will introduce a number of updates for the Spanish GP to try and close the gap to the front of the field.