Michael Schumacher has admitted that he did not expect Mercedes to lock-out the front row of the grid for the Chinese Grand Prix - and is equally doubtful of its race performance.
The seven-time world champion might have topped the combined times on Friday, but expected a rise in temperature to play more into the hands of Mercedes' rivals, despite the advantage provided by the W03's controversial DRS system. As it turned out, after having to give best to the McLarens in Saturday morning session, only team-mate Nico Rosberg
and the penalised Lewis Hamilton
bettered Schumacher in qualifying, with the German subsequently being promoted to the front row as temperatures dropped again the final ten-minute session.
"Looking at yesterday, I didn't think it would be enough to fight for pole position and, looking at what Nico was able to do, obviously I think it's a little surprise for all of us," Schumacher admitted, "Nevertheless, the gap looked a little bit bigger than it finally was today and good for us, let's hope we can keep it that way. Obviously the further forward we are, the better the prospects are for tomorrow."
Of bigger surprise to Schumacher, however, was the half-second gap between himself and his team-mate, as Rosberg caught the cooling session just right. The younger German was even able to sit out the remainder of final qualifying, confident that his mark was out of his rivals' reach and able to save a set of tyres for raceday.
"It was a phenomenal lap time," Schumacher said of Rosberg's 1min 35.121secs effort, "For all of us, to see the gap that big is a bit of a surprise, but there you go. He's known as a good qualifier and [there is] no reason [for me] to be unhappy. Quite the opposite - I'm happy for him for his first pole."
With just a single point between them, raceday hasn't been too kind to the Mercedes pair, and Schumacher was not about to believe that being on the front row was a guarantee of success on Sunday.
"In my two races, one I retired and the other one I got put backwards by being spun around, so it's not completely clear what we would have seen with our car," he reasoned, "It's certainly a question mark whether we would have been able to keep up that position, but we'll try our best to do so.
"We don't have a particular problem, it's just a question of how the general speed on high fuel compares to the others, what that means. Then, obviously, you have tyre degradation, everybody has it - some have more, some have less - but, for me, I guess it will be the first proper race which I'm hopefully going to finish, so I will tell more at the end!"