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Ralf Schumacher said he was surprised by the pace of his Toyota following today's practice session for the season opening Australian Grand Prix.

Toyota, who have underachieved since they joined Formula 1 in 2002, begins the 2005 season with a new driver line-up and hopes to achieve at least a few podium finishes later in the year.

Schumacher, joining the Japanese squad this season after six years at Williams, was happy with the team's start in Melbourne despite finishing 13th quickest and nearly 1.7 seconds off the pace, set by McLaren's third driver Pedro de la Rosa.

"Generally, I am quite satisfied with the work we have achieved today," said the German. "The car did not have any technical problems in either of the two sessions. We did a lot of work in preparation for Sunday's race and we are developing things in a positive direction.

"I am a little surprised because I think our performance is better than I expected but we still have a lot of work to do overnight to improve the car further. I am looking forward to qualifying already."

Schumacher's teammate Jarno Trulli, who had already raced for Toyota in two of last year's season ending Grands Prix, posted the 14th quickest time, while Brazilian test driver Ricardo Zonta was 11th.

"Today, we spent time developing and improving the balance of the car for this track," said Trulli. "We also carried out some important tyre testing for the race, but we honestly have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

"There is a good chance that the weather will take a turn for the worse and, if it rains, we will be faced with completely different track conditions, which will make Saturday a bit of a gamble for everybody. Nevertheless it is nice to be back in Australia racing after the winter period."

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