Schumi hails improvement
Michael Schumacher says qualifying third on such a demanding track like Sepang is testament to the work Mercedes have done to improve their competitiveness.
Last Updated: 24/03/12 9:21pm
Michael Schumacher believes third place on the grid in Malaysia is testament to the work Mercedes have done over the winter given the demanding nature of the Sepang circuit.
As at the season-opener in Australia, the seven-time World Champion again proved one of the stars of qualifying on Saturday and appeared set to join dominant pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton on the front row for Sunday's race.
And although he was eventually shuffled back to third by the second McLaren of Jenson Button, Schumacher - who qualified fourth last weekend - said a place on the second row reflected very well on Mercedes given the gap that existed between themselves and the front of the field last season.
"I'm feeling happy certainly," he told Sky Sports News.
"It's a good achievement for us considering where we come from last year and considering who is behind us.
"Not only now in Australia - a sometimes unusual circuit for car performance - but even in a difficult track like Malaysia, we managed to do a good job.
"Thanks to the guys here we are, let's hope we can be in equal position tomorrow."
Since returning to F1 after three years in retirement with the new Mercedes works team in 2010 Schumacher's performances have been under almost constant scrutiny with the now 43-year-old still waiting for the first podium finish of his comeback.
But after he again outqualified Nico Rosberg at Sepang on Saturday - the younger German to start seventh - Mercedes Team Principal paid tribute to his long-time colleague's performance, which came in the wake of a stressful Q2 for the team when both drivers were forced into a late scramble to make the cut.
"We are obviously delighted with the performance today and congratulations to Michael in particular. It's really pleasing to see him put in such a good performance, and I hope we can consolidate that in the race tomorrow," Brawn said.
"We didn't have the best of luck in Q2 as the yellow flag came at the worst time for us, meaning that both drivers had to go again on a second set of options, which left us only one set for Q3.
"So I'm pleased with what we managed to achieve, and we are in a good position for the race tomorrow."
And on Rosberg, Brawn added: "The competition is incredibly close with only tenths separating the top eight and that was enough to push Nico further down than he should have been after he flat-spotted his front tyre at turn one. However he is still in a good position and both drivers should be able to have a strong race."