Schumacher Surprised by Sauber, Red Bull Pace

World Champion Michael Schumacher said he was surprised by the pace of the Sauber and Red Bull teams in today's opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

Schumacher Surprised by Sauber, Red Bull Pace

World Champion Michael Schumacher said he was surprised by the pace of the Sauber and Red Bull teams in today's opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

The German, however, said Ferrari's main rivals were those they had predicted after winter testing.

"It looks as though our pre-season idea of who would be our main opposition was pretty accurate, although I was surprised at the pace of the Red Bull and Sauber cars," said Schumacher after McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa and Kimi Raikkonen topped the times.

Red Bull's Vitantonio Liuzzi was quickest in the first session, while Sauber's Felipe Massa finished sixth fastest in the second.

The seven times World Champion did not complete a timed lap in the morning, when he had a small electrical problem, but finished the afternoon fourth fastest with 15 circuits under his belt.

"Ideally we'd be doing 20-lap runs to make a judgement on the tyres but that's not possible now with the new engine rules," said technical director Ross Brawn. "We've had to economise a little on the engine mileage but we've done enough to make a judgement that we'll be happy with.

"So far we're quite pleased with the work we've done and the position we're in."

Schumacher's teammate Rubens Barrichello was ninth quickest in the second F2004M, the car Ferrari will use before they debut their new F2005.

"I am happy with the situation although it is very difficult to understand everyone's true pace," said the Brazilian. "Tomorrow, we have a qualifying session on low fuel, so it is possible some people were already trying that configuration today.

"I had a slight problem with the balance of the car, a bit of traffic and I also went off the track. I expect to be looking better tomorrow."

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