Mercedes plays down victory chances

Both Michael Schumacher and Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn have played down swelling undercurrents that the team could be well placed to fight for a win in the season-opening Australian GP.

The team enjoyed a good, reliable pre-season test campaign and while Brawn thinks that it is considerably better placed than last year, he says that victory in Sunday's season-opening Australian GP is "a bit too optimistic." Schumacher, meanwhile, suspects that Red Bull could still have a pace advantage.

"I believe we have come quite a long way in 12 months, however," Brawn conceded. "We are a much stronger team than we were 12 months ago. I wasn't comfortable at all with where we were then.

"We hadn't achieved the things we wanted to achieve over the winter, we had a car that had some problems and we are in a much better position this year."

Brawn says that the Melbourne opener will not necessarily be a strong form barometer, however. As well as being a circuit that is not typical, the challenge of Albert Park has also been complicated by a move to twilight hours, when tyre temperatures and pressures can become an issue.

At a pre-season media lunch in Melbourne, Brawn said that no decisions about Schumacher's future beyond this year are imminent.

"There is no time frame," Brawn said. "Michael is comfortable with that and so are we. We will probably do the first third or half of the season and then have a look at things together. Personally, I would like to see Michael continue with because it will mean that we are achieving our objectives."

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