Michael Schumacher says he is raring to go and fully prepared for the challenges of his Formula 1 comeback in Bahrain this weekend, even though he is not expecting a strong start to his campaign.
The seven-time champion's efforts will be one of the main focuses at the season opener at Sakhir, Bahrain, even though both he and his German car manufacturer team does not believe it will hit peak form until much later in the year. Although pessimistic about his chances for early success, Schumacher is adamant that Mercedes GP has what it takes to pull through and triumph in the end.
When asked in a preview interview if he was ready for a long hard title fight, Schumacher said: "Absolutely, yes. This is what I am here for, and I am confident we can play a role in this fight. If 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."
The Mercedes GP W01 has not appeared to be the quickest car in preseason testing, although its ultimate form remains unclear with the team only due to fit its definitive 2010 diffuser package at Bahrain this weekend. That leap forward could be enough to haul it right to the front of the grid – and Schumacher is hopeful that the extra development time the team has gained from introducing its parts so late should pay off.
"The car has not been completely at the level of other teams' cars at the end of the tests, true, but the amount of fuel was massively influencing this impression," he explained. "It seems we were driving more fuel than others most of the time and therefore we look quite good I would say. But then it is hard to judge who [has] played all his cards yet.
"Our car also has not been at the final configuration – something we had deliberately wanted. We wanted to use the two weeks development time between the last test and the race in Bahrain."
Although Schumacher is well aware that only more success will be good enough for his return to F1, he does not think the pressure on him to succeed is too high.
"I said it quite clear from the beginning: we do not have to – and probably will not – be in the position to win right from the start," he explained. "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."