Michael Schumacher does not expect Mercedes to be an immediate contender for victory when the 2010 season starts in Bahrain, insisting he always anticipated a low-key start to the season.
The seven-time champion had his first full day of running in the Mercedes GP W01 today after sharing the car with teammate Nico Rosberg on Monday. Although he said it was too soon to judge whether the car was a potential championship winner, Schumacher believes it could take a few races for the car to come good.
"I'm thinking we will be competitive, but whether this is a winning car straightaway or not, that's another story," he said. "For me, that's not so important – it's a long season. We need to be there and taking points from the beginning.
"I wouldn't expect to be winning right from the beginning. It wasn't something that I was aiming for and expecting to be the case. But we need to be strong enough on development."
AUTOSPORT reports that Mercedes is looking at changes to its weight distribution based on the information it has gathered at Valencia this week. The team is also yet to put its definitive 2010 front wing and diffuser onto the car.
Despite his caution over the team's likely early form, and the small hydraulic leak that slightly shortened his session today, Schumacher said he was content with progress so far overall.
"Basically, I'm feeling quite good," he said. "The main focus right now is to look at the reliability, do as many laps as you can, and don't worry too much about the lap times. I guess you look at them, but you need to focus."
He added that he had found it easier to get back into the swing of Formula 1 than he had expected.
"Actually, it's been much easier than I anticipated," said Schumacher. "I thought it would need a bit more time, but it went pretty quickly."
Full Q & A with Michael Schumacher