Michael Schumacher says Red Bull are in pole position

Michael Schumacher has written off his chances of starting the new Formula One season with a victory.

Schumacher's return to F1 last year was instantly forgettable and highly criticised after the 42-year-old failed to finish any race on the podium.



With Mercedes opting to start development on this year's car midway through last season, hopes were appreciably high they would hit the ground running.



But that has not been the case because, like McLaren, the team have been blighted by reliability issues and a lack of pace.



Unsurprising then that Schumacher is already resigned to fighting for position rather than wins when the season starts in Australia on March 27.



"We clearly know Red Bull are very strong and are the team you have to look at," said Schumacher, suggesting the world champions are in the driving seat at present.



"I guess we're not quite in a position (to win), but then I wasn't expecting to be in this position right now.



"The season is long and there is a big question mark as to who is coming up behind (Red Bull), and I hope we play a sufficient role in that."



Again like McLaren, Schumacher can at least sense the team are heading in the right direction.



"We have made a lot of progress with the car, so I'm quite happy," said the German following his penultimate test run this pre-season yesterday.



"Having concluded all our reliability work at the last test we're now concentrating on setting up the car, fine-tuning, understanding it down to the last detail.



"So I know where we are, and we are working very well. We are on the slope and on the progress curve like we want to be.



"Right now we are not concerned with our reliability. We have had some issues, but that is why you go testing, to get things sorted out, and that is what we have been doing."



Schumacher, who finished the day fifth quickest, now has one final day of testing to complete the fine-tuning he has referred to.



Ahead of him at the top of the timesheet was Sauber's Sergio Perez, albeit misleadingly so as his lap of one minute 21.761secs was set on a low-fuel qualifying run with super-soft tyres.



Just below him were the two leading teams, with Ferrari and Felipe Massa just having the edge over the Red Bull and Mark Webber.



In terms of brinkmanship, both drivers ended up tipping the other's team as the leading contender at present.



"Ferrari are strong. I think we're going okay, and the rest is hard to say," said Webber.



"Hopefully we are not too far away from Ferrari to start with and we go from there, but the form is still very hard (to read)."



In response, Massa said: "I tip Red Bull.



"First of all they are a team that won last year, and second they are very quick here.



"On Wednesday Sebastian (Vettel) did a very quick time as well, so I tip Red Bull, although I hope Mark Webber is right."



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