Michael Schumacher has predicted that an exciting F1 season lies ahead with the field looking tighter than it has in recent years during the course of pre-season testing.

Most of the field managed to lap within a second of the quickest time during the final four-day test at Catalunya, where Mercedes its pre-season testing programme with the new W03.

Despite only launching the car at the first Barcelona test - preferring to run the W02 in Jerez - Mercedes was able to put nearly 4,500km of running on the new car and Schumacher said the team had made good progress in the eight days on track.

"We are very happy with all the work we have been able to achieve, covering a lot of kilometres and learning a lot about our car which gives us a good basis to work from," he said. "The car felt good from the very beginning, and we have managed to improve it over the test days, so I think we can say that we are very well prepared.

"Again, what this means compared to our competitors is something I want only to go into after some races, as we all know that testing does not show everything. What we can say though is that the field is tighter than it has been, so we are looking forward to an exciting season."

Team boss Ross Brawn said he felt confident about the performance of the team heading into the 2012 campaign, but insisted it was difficult to make any firm predictions until teams hit the track in Melbourne.

"It has been a demanding period for everyone involved, and I am very pleased with the work that we have achieved and the progress that we have seen. Over nine days of testing, Michael and Nico have put 4250 km on the F1 W03, and we have accomplished the majority of items on a very demanding test programme. There is a lot of hard work ahead back at base next week to analyse the results, however I am confident that we are in good shape for the start of the season.

"As usual, it would be unwise to make any judgement on our competitiveness at this stage, and I will certainly refrain from doing so! It is going to be fascinating to see how it all turns out and I'm sure that this is going to be a very exciting season for the teams and fans. We are all looking forward to the action getting underway in Australia in a fortnight."


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