Michael Schumacher says he does not necessarily expect Mercedes to build a car capable of challenging for the 2012 Formula 1 championship.
Mercedes is the only front-running team – and the only team other than HRT – not to bring its 2012 car to the first preseason test at Jerez. It will instead run for the first time in the second test at Barcelona in two weeks.
Schumacher, running therefore in a 2011-spec car at Jerez, says it will take time for Mercedes to work its way to the front and it is therefore not realistic to expect its 2012 challenger to be a title candidate.
"I don't think we can realistically achieve a championship car immediately from where we started last year – we have to build our way there," Schumacher explained. "I am confident we can do that, but let's take it step by step. We work longer on our car, but if this was the only secret we should have shown all the cars later."
Schumacher, who set the pace on the second day of testing at Jerez in the W02, nevertheless backed what he said was a valuable unveiling program.
"Our program is done in a way we believe in," he said. "We made some very good work with the new tires, which are certainly much better for a driver – they are more consistent and a lot closer to what you would expect from a Formula 1 tire. Understanding those tires was our main focus and we had a program we did pretty well with."
Asked whether he still believed he could win a record eighth drivers' crown, Schumacher said: "Absolutely. I'm still around to fight for the championship. Whether we can or cannot do that is something to be proven this year – or whenever."