Michael Schumacher says he feels like a kid waiting for Christmas ahead of the first race of the season in Bahrain next weekend.
The 41-year-old German is returning to grand prix racing after having retired from the sport at the end of 2006. Having raced in F1 over three years ago, the seven-time champion says he cannot wait to start competing again.
"Finally, the season will start! I feel like a child looking forward to Christmas," said Schumacher in a team preview. "The decision to make my comeback feels like a long time ago now and I can hardly wait for the season to get under way in Bahrain.
"It's funny to think that I will be competing in Formula 1 again when just a few months ago, I would have declined the opportunity categorically. But sometimes things change and the right circumstances come together. I feel fresher than I have for many years.
"I am perfectly prepared physically and most importantly, my energy is back completely. When I retired from racing in 2006, my batteries were simply empty. Now they are totally recharged and I am ready for the challenge. It is the competition at the highest level that only Formula 1 offers which has provided the temptation for me."
Schumacher believes his Mercedes GP team should be competitive in Bahrain, although he admits it is hard to make predictions.
"It is always difficult to predict the form in preseason testing, this year more than ever, but the final test in Barcelona proved to us that we should be competitive," he said. "We know that we will have more new parts in Bahrain which should bring extra performance to the car. It's important to be in the leading group from the start of the season and I am confident that we will be there."
Teammate Nico Rosberg is also confident his team will be strong at Sakhir, despite preseason testing not having been perfect. "The build-up to a new Formula 1 season is always an exciting time, particularly when you have a new team to settle into and a brand-new car to get used to," he said. "It has been a really nice process integrating into Mercedes GP. Everyone has been very welcoming and I feel very much at home here already. Our preseason testing program has gone pretty well in February.
"We did have some concerns that we were not able to find the right direction to extract the maximum potential from the car but, by working hard, we were able to find our way and ended testing on a high. We also have a good upgrade coming for Bahrain which should develop the car further and so I am quite optimistic that we will do well. Bahrain is a track which I really enjoy so it should be a good start to the season all in all."
Team boss Ross Brawn admitted, however, there was still work to do before the W01 car is fully ready.
"We had a strong preseason testing program with the MGP W01 but we have not quite reached the level of preparation that we would have liked prior to Bahrain," Brawn said.
"The car shows promise and we have a strong development program planned for the season but there is a lot of hard work ahead to ensure that we will be in the fight for the title. I am very pleased with how our new drivers Michael and Nico have settled into the team and developed a close working relationship."