It's been two years since Michael Schumacher returned from his break from F1 competition, and it hasn't been the triumphant return that many expected and that the man himself surely hoped for. But that made the first taste of renewed success all the sweeter when it came in the form of a strong third place in qualifying for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang
"I am more than happy about my return to the top three today," he beamed. "It felt nice being in the qualifying press conference for the first time in over five years! What is obviously more important would be sitting here again tomorrow, and I will certainly try to do my best to achieve that.
"From where we were last year, I think it is quite an achievement," he added. "And I am pleased for our title partner Petronas at their home Grand Prix here in Malaysia."
Team boss Ross Brawn was just as happy with how things had gone for the team during the qualifying session.
"We are obviously delighted with the performance today and congratulations to Michael in particular," said Brawn. "It's really pleasing to see him put in such a good performance, and I hope we can consolidate that in the race tomorrow."
"Quite superb from Michael today, I have to say," said Mercedes-Benz motorsports vice-president Norbert Haug. "Of course, it is also nice to have three Mercedes-powered cars in the top three places for tomorrow's race, and we hope our team will be able to fight for a top five result."
Unfortunately, Nico Rosberg didn't fare quite so well in the final part of qualifying and ended up with only the eighth fastest time after locking his wheels at the start of his crucial lap.
"I would obviously like to be further up the grid," he admitted. "Unfortunately I lost some time on my quick lap after a poor first corner which cost me a few tenths and left me with a lot of tyre vibrations for the rest of the lap."
"The competition is incredibly close with only tenths separating the top eight," pointed out Brawn. "That was enough to push Nico further down than he should have been after he flat-spotted his front tyre at turn one. However he is still in a good position and both drivers should be able to have a strong race.”
Haug was the one to sound a note of caution, however.
"We will certainly not get carried away assuming that we are already a challenge for McLaren Mercedes and Red Bull," he said. "And we do not underestimate Lotus who are doing a great job - and as always we never underestimate Ferrari!"