Michael Schumacher admitted that he was satisfied with fifth on the grid for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix around the Istanbul Park Circuit – one of the few tracks on the F1 calendar at which the German legend has never triumphed – but he conceded that Red Bull Racing remain simply 'in their own world'.
Time was, of course, when 'Schumi' was held in such revered estimation himself, but having returned to the fray with Mercedes Grand Prix this season at the age of 41, he has become a mere mortal like the rest, and that fifth place represents his best starting spot since coming back speaks volumes.
Nonetheless, it did mark only the second time in seven races that the Kerpen native has got the better of his highly-rated young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg, and also meant both Mercedes' had out-qualified both Ferraris to be F1's third force in Istanbul – and just another tenth of a second for Schumacher, indeed, would have put him third. A late session-ending spin that left him beached in the Turn Eight gravel trap aside, it was, all-in-all, a positive day.
“I am quite happy with my qualifying today, and I really think that we have made a step forward,” reported the record-breaking 91-time grand prix-winner, who conversely only made it through Q2 and into the top ten shoot-out by less than a tenth. “If you consider that this is a track which is aerodynamically demanding, you can clearly say the hard work of our guys has paid off and I would really say thank you to them.
“What happened in Turn Eight was that it was my last go, the fast lap before was a good one, so obviously you try to push even more, especially as on this lap you can win time. I went out a bit wide and off it went. In my view, the side I am starting from is an advantage as it is much cleaner; I have tried practice starts from both sides and felt my side was the better one. As for tomorrow's race, I will certainly try to have a good start and try to achieve the best result possible.
“When you see the position we're in, though, Red Bull are driving in their own world. After them it's then Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and ourselves – but I hope our development will move us closer, to be in a reasonable position to fight.”
“It was a decent performance today,” concurred Rosberg. “Sixth place gives us a good opportunity for the race, and we will aim to move up the field from there. I would have liked to have been a little further ahead, of course – the car is feeling reasonable this weekend and although there is a very narrow set-up window, we have pretty much got there.
“It's clear that we have made some progress with our aero upgrades and everyone at the factory has done a good job, so thanks for all their hard work. I am on the dirty side of the grid for the race tomorrow but it should have cleaned up now, and it's only a short run to the first corner. If I can have a good start and first lap, then we have the potential for a strong race.”
Those sentiments were shared by the reigning double world championship-winning outfit's team principal Ross Brawn and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, both of whom confirmed that the Brackley-based concern is continuing to 'head in the right direction' as it bids to close the gap on the F1 2010 pace-setters.