• Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying

Schumacher expecting tough race

ESPN Staff
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Michael Schumacher: "It's not very promising" © Sutton Images
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Michael Schumacher is preparing himself for a difficult race from 23rd on the grid after Mercedes struggled for pace during qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Schumacher was 13th fastest in Q2 but will drop to back row of the grid once his 10-place grid penalty from Singapore is applied. However, Schumacher is not optimistic about his chances of carving through the field on Sunday.

"It's not very promising," he said. "Looking at our performance today, in ideal terms we were maybe just about to enter Q3 and if you see this you imagine the race is going to be difficult, particularly from where I am going to start. Unless circumstances do change and they can move us forward in race conditions compared to qualifying conditions ... but that I don't see that right now if I'm honest. So it's going to be a tough fight tomorrow."

Nico Rosberg, who qualified 15th but will start 13th once Schumacher and Hulkenberg's penalties are applied, said Mercedes recent exhaust updates had only served to keep the car in touch with the frontrunners at Suzuka rather than closing the gap.

"Of course I'm not enthusiastic and happy with where we are at the moment but then our updates have worked and improved the car and brought us forwards," he said. "I could feel that in Singapore but unfortunately that's not been the case here. It seems other people are progressing also and doing a good job compared to us. So we haven't really close the gap down to them, we've just equalled their development pace at the moment.

"We need to push to be even better and that's what we are doing with new parts coming to the cars over the next few weeks in Korea and the races after that. There is lots of new stuff and it's a steep learning curve for us to understand where we are going wrong, and we are understanding a lot. I'm optimistic that the next few races are going to be progress.

"It must be said also that a track like Suzuka has not been a strength this year and we know that. We've learned a lot about why we are not strong in high-speed corners like this so again that's an area where we know our weaknesses and we know we can improve over the next month or so."

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