MERCEDES Melbourne preview

The 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway in Melbourne next week with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Hosted at the beautiful Albert Park for the 17th consecutive year, the 5.303 km street circuit is located south of Melbourne city centre, and uses public roads surrounding the man-made Albert Park lake.* From 2002 - 2011, the winner of the Australian Grand Prix has gone on tobecome World Champion seven times* DRS can be used over 56% of the lap distance in qualifying, a total of2970 metres* The Safety Car has been deployed in six of the last ten Australian GrandsPrix on a total of 15 occasions* Mercedes-Benz power has won three of the last four Australian Grands Prix(2008, 2009, 2010)Michael Schumacher"Finally, we can stop trying to read the tea-leaves from testing andactually go racing. Melbourne is a perfect location, and the ideal place tostart the season. The city loves Formula One, the fans create a greatatmosphere and obviously, as drivers, we feel that too. And because we'vealready got a buzz about what's to come, it just makes you want to get outthere and start driving. During winter testing, we completed lots of milesand built up a really complete set of data, which should put us in a goodposition for the first race and to develop the car even further in the rightdirection. We're ready for the 2012 season to begin..."Nico Rosberg"I'm really looking forward to the start of the new season in Australia nextweekend. I had a perfect winter break with plenty of rest, a good trainingcamp and a successful pre-season test programme where we were able to put alot of mileage on our F1 W03 car. So we are really ready for the first race.I always love the atmosphere in Melbourne; it's a great city and the fansare fantastic. After all of the hard work, and all of the speculation, itwill be really interesting to see where we are on Saturday afternoon afterqualifying. Before heading to Australia, I will be in New Zealand for a biketraining camp to help me adjust to the time difference and the climate 'DownUnder'."Ross Brawn, Team Principal"The build-up to the start of a new season is always an exciting time, nomatter how many times you have experienced it, and everyone at the team islooking forward to the action getting underway in Melbourne next week. Weare well prepared, both at the factory and on track, as a result of ourstructured development and testing plan, and I am confident that we are in agood position. How this translates to our performance relative to thecompetition is, of course, the key question and it will be interesting tosee how it all shapes out next weekend. My thanks to all of the team atBrackley and Brixworth for their hard work and dedication over the wintermonths and I hope we will be able to reward them with a strong season.Melbourne has always been one of the atmospheric races on the calendar, andcertainly one of my favourite cities to visit, so I look forward to a goodweek ahead."Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport "It's only a littleover 100 days since Formula One was in Brazil for the final race of the 2011season, but now we are ready for the 2012 season to begin and to get back towhat we love best: going motor racing. Starting the third season with ourSilver Arrows works team, we think we are better prepared than the two yearsbefore, which indicates that our learning process is heading in the rightdirection. The Mercedes F1 W03 has run reliably since its first run on 16February, completed 4,450 km during pre-season testing, and achieved anaverage daily testing mileage of 472 km: this equates to an average of morethan one and a half Grand Prix distances during each of the nine test days.Nico and Michael are both excited about the new season and highly motivated,while our team members back at base in Brackley and Brixworth and on trackare working extremely hard to deliver both performance and reliability atthe opening race. The whole team has done a good job in both areas thiswinter. After testing, we know we have a solid basis to work from and a goodplatform for development. Understandably, there is much speculation aboutthe pecking order of the new season, and finally we will get a first answeron Saturday afternoon during qualifying in Melbourne, when everybody has toput their cards on the table. Before the first race of this long season, Iwould like to thank all our team members who have worked so hard and withdedication during the past months, with our clear target which is making thenext step in improving our performance compared to our competitors. We aimto show that we have taken this step forward as the first part of acontinuous process of improvement."