Michael Schumacher was clearly delighted to have broken back into the top three in qualifying at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but admitted that he could not hope to challenge the McLarens just yet.

Schumacher was only a tenth off Lewis Hamilton's pole time, and would have started on the front row had Jenson Button not pipped him by a couple of hundredths on his last run, but insisted that he was content to line up on the inside of the second row, having still achieved his best qualifying result since returning to the sport just over two years ago.

"This was the maximum that was available," he claimed, "We managed to work the car very well over the whole weekend, we obviously showed potential in Australia, not so much in the race, so focus was obviously to try to find the best compromise and I guess we have achieved this. We're third here, [but it is] a very tight business if you look who is behind us, and how close everything is going, so we can be more than happy about what we have achieved.

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"We'll take it as it comes. I think it's quite an achievement if you appreciate who is behind us; who would have thought that last year? That's the way I want to see it, not that we still have maybe to cover up a little bit in front. We are reasonably close, we are not miles away as we have been last year basically, so it's up to us now to have a good development programme, work methodically and focused and then let's see what the season brings us.

"Naturally, you would rather be further forward than I am but, quite honestly, from where we have come, I think it's quite an achievement to be third, so I have no regrets, just feeling good about it, particularly knowing that we have chosen a car that should work much better in the race. I would rather be compromised for qualifying; that's a situation which I hope will pay back tomorrow."

Mercedes went into the opening round of the season in Melbourne with similarly high hopes, after Schumacher qualified fourth and ran third in the opening laps, but an early retirement precipitated a scoreless weekend for the Brackley-based outfit.

"We have learned quite a lesson in Australia, we have reacted, the boys in the factory, and all the team have done a really superb job," he noted, "I'm more than happy about the progress and how we understand the car and I look forward for tomorrow. I guess all of us have concerns because those temperatures are pretty new to us. We have had some preparation yesterday but I guess we have done a decent job."