Michael Schumacher is in bullish spirits heading Down Under for the F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend, insisting that 'this year feels very different indeed' to his troubled comeback campaign in 2010 and revealing that he has 'never regretted' his decision to rejoin the competitive fray.
Last year marked the first full season of his F1 career that seven-time world champion Schumacher had failed to tally so much as a single podium finish – and to make matters worse, Mercedes Grand Prix team-mate Nico Rosberg notched up three, roundly outperforming his elder compatriot and outscoring him in the final reckoning by a commanding 142 points to 72.
Towards the end of the campaign, however, the 'Schumi' of old was increasingly re-appearing, and after a significant upgrade package for the final group test in Barcelona earlier this month finally breathed some life into the initially uncompetitive new Mercedes MGP W02 – enabling the record-breaking German legend to set the fastest time of the week – there is a sense of quiet optimism at Brackley that 2011 will be considerably better than 2010.
“This year feels very different indeed,” underlined Schumacher, the 'daddy' of the current F1 crop at the comparatively grand old age of 42. “Last year everything was new again – the testing situation, the car, the team, the structures. It was very exciting, but it was still something you had to find your way through.
“Now, one year later, I know much better which areas to work on. I am much more familiar with the team, and we have a great group of very skilled and dedicated people. I enjoy what I do, I enjoy working with Mercedes and I have never regretted my decision to return.
“My feeling is a good one. The team has been working very hard over the winter to shape our car in all of the areas which had been identified by us as needing improvement. The data I have seen has been quite encouraging, but then we all know that the realities of data and the racetrack can be quite different.
“As a driver, you obviously hope for a good step forward, and I think this is what we have achieved. Saying that, we will only see the truth once the season gets underway, so I can hardly wait to go to Melbourne to finally see what the real picture is. It is difficult to predict, but I am happy with all the work that we have conducted so far.”