In an admission that is likely to offer his F1 2010 rivals little comfort, returning legend Michael Schumacher has reflected that after three years away from active competition in the top flight, he 'picked up the rhythm faster than thought' during testing in Valencia last week.

Schumacher is making what has been described in some quarters as the greatest comeback in sporting history with Mercedes Grand Prix this season, having originally hung up his F1 helmet at the end of 2006, his 16th campaign at the highest level.

Though he has tested on a number of occasions for erstwhile employer Ferrari over the intervening period, the record-breaking seven-time world champion's outing around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo marked the first time he had really turned a wheel in anger since the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, in which he finished fourth having had to fight his way stirringly back through the field following a puncture.

Third-fastest on both of his days inside the cockpit of Mercedes' new W01 challenger, 'Schumi' wound up seventh at the close of play, almost half a second ahead of highly-rated young compatriot and team-mate Nico Rosberg. Not a bad start, by any measure.

"Coming back to F1 in Valencia caused less trouble than expected for me," the 41-year-old Kerpen native told his personal website. "I picked up the rhythm faster than thought and everything went well. The car is reliable; that is the most important basis.

"I now have a good feeling for the season that is spread ahead of us. Of course we will have to work a lot more, but that is fun actually. We are a new team [and] you have to get used to each other and the way everybody works, but with Ross [Brawn - team principal] I have the right person in the right spot. I am really happy about that first test."

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