Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn has said that Michael Schumacher could surprise a few people this season and insisted it would be a boost for the sport if the German was successful in his second year back in the sport.

The German struggled on his return to the grid last year after three years away and failed to make it onto the podium, although both Schumacher and team-mate Nico Rosberg will hope that the new W02 will enable them to fight towards the front of the field.

However, a switch away from the Bridgestone tyres should aid Schumacher for the year ahead and Brawn said he felt confident that the seven-time champion would be able to show more of his old form during 2011.

"It would be a tremendous boost for Formula 1 if he succeeds," Brawn told BBC Radio Northampton. "We had a quiet year with Michael last year. Now he's looking sharp and he might surprise a few people.

"He's not been involved in the sport for three years, and undoubtedly in that time, certain edges go soft. I think they're sharp again now. I've heard the comments that he's tarnishing his image because he's not winning races, but he's loving what he's doing. He's not worried what people think about him."

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