Michael Schumacher believes Red Bull Racing will remain the team to beat this year, at least at the 2012 F1 season opening Australian Grand Prix next weekend.
Schumacher has admitted that it is 'unlikely' he will be able to challenge for top honours at Melbourne's Albert Park, although he believes it will be close further back, with little separating his team, Mercedes GP, from the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus F1.
“Victory for me is unlikely, I see Red Bull in front,” the 43-year-old told his official website when asked about his chances of winning 'down under'.
“Behind them it will be tight though, and you can be either hero or zero very quickly. It will come down a lot to the ability of how well you set up your car to the respective track.”
Despite that however, the seven-time F1 world champion, does believe Mercedes have moved forward over the winter.
“The speed is promising. I hope we can show that in Melbourne. We were able to drive a lot during the tests and therefore learn a lot too, and we certainly have made a step forward,” he continued.
“I just want to wait until after the first race to judge how big this step is and how much it is worth compared to our competitors.
“We have experienced last year that you be very wrong relying on the data coming out of the winter tests. And because we can see that the field will be very narrow this year, I do not have a clear picture yet.
“What we can say though is that the gap between the several teams will not be as big as it has been last year.”
As for his own position, and whether or not he will continue in racing in F1 beyond this year, Schumacher added, that, it is 'totally unimportant at the moment'.
“I don't even think about it. Now, it is all about focussing and concentrating on understanding our car, so that we will have a positive season. I will certainly not been nailed down now,” he summed-up.