It’s still early days, but all the signs are pointing to a strong Australian Grand Prix weekend for Michael Schumacher. The seven-time World Champion has never really looked himself since returning to Formula One with Mercedes in 2010, but in practice for the first race of 2012 has looked quick and comfortable in the car.
Schumacher topped the times in Practice 2 on Friday afternoon, although the mixed weather conditions limit how meaningful the laptimes are. In Practice 1, he was fastest for quite a while before being beaten by the McLaren pair of Button and Hamilton.
Perhaps the most significant sign of Schumacher’s struggles in 2010 and 2011 has been his qualifying performances. Team-mate Nico Rosberg has comprehensively outperformed Schumacher over the last two seasons. So qualifying for Australia should give a clear indication of how happy Schumacher is with the car.
It’s definitely too early to predict race results. We haven’t seen the best of Red Bull or Ferrari, and we don’t know what fuel loads the teams were running on Friday. Qualifying will begin to paint a clearer picture of who is quick. It starts in just over 7 hours.