Michael Schumacher had been riding high on Saturday, basking in the success of having put his Mercedes into third place of the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. He was hoping for the success to continue into race day, but instead he found himself pointing in the wrong direction on the very first lap.

"I was touched at the back soon after the start and the car spun which really decided my afternoon," said the multiple former world champion, reflecting on the eventful race. He managed to get back underway, but had dropped to 16th place by the end of the first lap.

"During the first part of the race, I just tried to stay on track as you couldn't see anything, and it was the right decision to halt the race," he said. "After the re-start, the pace wasn't that far off but it was the same for a lot of teams so there was no way to gain positions." Schumacher eventually finished in tenth place to at least salvage a championship point from the day.

Things were little better for his young team mate and compatriot, Nico Rosberg, who started from eighth place on the grid but who struggled throughout and eventually fell back to 13th by the chequered flag after what he described as an "unlucky day" at Sepang.

"I had a good restart and because of a good strategy I was in fourth position," he said. "But then I had problems with my intermediate tyres; the degradation was very high which forced me to do another pit stop for a new set."

Things were better on the slicks that he took on for the final stage of the race, which enabled him to finish in front of McLaren's Jenson Button, but the car still did not deliver the sort of performance that the team had hoped for.

The big puzzle that Mercedes are left scratching their heads over is the disparity between their qualifying and their race performances.

"Clearly we have a conundrum with this car that we have to unravel," was team principal Ross Brawn's admission. "We struggled to get the tyres to work properly in the race today. There were little windows when we seemed to get them working and other times where we fell out of them completely.

"I don't believe that we are abusing the tyres, just not using them properly, and it's a problem that we have to solve if we are going to move forward with the car," he continued. "However I am confident that we have enough strength and the right people to unravel the problem. We will be getting our heads down back at the factory next week and doing just that."

Brawn's thinking was echoed by both of his drivers.

"It's clear from today that there is still a lot of work for us to do to take our pace from qualifying into the race," said Schumacher. "I am sure the guys are already thinking very hard about finding a solution. But this will not be done from one race to another, it will take some time, and we need to give it that time."

"We are strong in qualifying but not yet in the race, and we need to work on that before the next race in China," agreed Rosberg.

"Our car has got speed and we will continue to work hard to generate this speed in the race as well as in qualifying," contributed Mercedes-Benz motorsports vice-president Norbert Haug, who pointed out that "we never really could cope with the wet conditions and the drying out track," and added that "Nobody has had the opportunity to test [in these conditions] before the race.

"Other teams could obviously handle these mixed conditions better and all credit to them. Both Ferrari and Sauber did a great job today so congratulations to those teams, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez."

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