Michael Schumacher insists that Mercedes does not have the pace to challenge for a podium finish in the European Grand Prix despite setting the fourth fastest time during Friday practice.
Schumacher, whose best lap was 0.347sec off pacesetter Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, believes that only luck would allow the MGP W02 to finish in the top three. He added that although the car's single-lap speed was good, he is less confident about tire degradation over race runs.
"Forget the podium, we are not strong enough for that," said Schumacher after practice. "The Ferraris are very strong and we are behind the McLarens and the Red Bulls. If we are lucky, we might catch one of those teams, but we must be lucky. That's too far away from the podium.
"I don't think that the pace is good enough. It's one thing for a lap and it looked reasonable, but that depends on how good a lap the other guys got in. The other question is long-run performance because we usually drop off a little bit on that."
Schumacher complained that the team struggled with the balance during the morning session, but achieved a "reasonably stable" balance in the afternoon.
Teammate Nico Rosberg had a similar experience during the two 90-minute free practice sessions. He ended the day in eight place overall, one second off the pace.
"This morning was a bit difficult," said Rosberg when asked about his progress. "We lost some time this morning with a few things on the car.
"We are not quite happy yet with the balance. There are so many things with the KERS and the new mapping regulations that made it all a bit more challenging."