Sport in brief: We won't win in Bahrain, says Schumacher


Formula One: Mercedes GP is unlikely to win Formula One's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, according to team driver Michael Schumacher.

"At the moment we are not perfectly in the position we would like to be, to be competitive to win the first races straight way,'' Schumacher said yesterday when asked whether the former Brawn GP team could challenge in the opening race on 14 March.

The seven-time F1 champion, who is back after three years in retirement, said the pecking order was still developing with preseason testing ending at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.

Schumacher's lap time of 1 minute, 21.689 seconds was over a second behind leading driver Nico Hulkenberg of Williams. Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, arguably the preseason favourite for the drivers' title, was a second quicker than the 41-year-old German.

"We're working hard, the season is long. The main issue is not to be far off,'' Schumacher said. "This is very difficult to judge right now, what is the real picture.''

Red Bull and McLaren are also expected to be front-runners, with Mark Webber setting the pace for Red Bull on Thursday.

Schumacher said the car's pace – which helped it win last year's driver and constructors' titles – was improving as his time with the team grew.

"We are working very good together. It has taken very little time to work with the team and to get on with everybody,'' Schumacher said. "Testing is one thing, racing is another thing.''

Former champion Lewis Hamilton expected Mercedes to be in the mix come Bahrain, although the McLaren driver wasn't ruling himself out for a win. "It's so hard to tell,'' Hamilton, the 2008 winner, said, "but I'm a positive guy so I'm going for it.''

Hamilton, who is joined by defending champion Jenson Button this season, said the British team was in a "much stronger" position than last year when a poor start left it too far behind to catch up by the time it finally starting winning races. "It feels light years ahead of what it felt last year at this time,'' Hamilton said.

Checa ahead of Fabrizio Down Under as Haslam leads British challenge

Superbikes: Spain's Carlos Checa topped the timesheets at the end of first qualifying for this weekend's opening round of the FIM Superbike World Championship in Australia. The Althea Racing rider edged out the Ducati Xerox of Michel Fabrizio by seven thousandths of a second in one minute 32.155 seconds at the 2.76-mile Phillip Island circuit. It was a good day for the British riders, with Leon Haslam in third and Checa's team-mate Shane Byrne in fourth. But James Toseland, making his return to the series after two years in MotoGP, could do no better than 13th after a fall.

Rossi breaks his own lap record in Sepang

Moto GP: World champion Valentino Rossi continued his domination of pre-season testing by breaking his own lap record in Sepang yesterday. The Italian's quickest lap on the Yamaha was two minutes 00.271sec, which beat the record time he set to qualify on pole position for the 2009 Malaysian GP. Spain's Jorge Lorenzo, Rossi's Yamaha team-mate and runner-up last year, missed the session because of a hand injury and is a doubt for the final test next month in Qatar, where the season-opening race takes place on 11 April.

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