SHANGHAI, April 15, 2011 (AFP) - Nico Rosberg is quietly hopeful of an improved performance at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix after an encouraging showing by Mercedes in practice in Shanghai on Friday.
The 25-year-old German, who has yet to score a point this season after two races, finished fourth in Friday afternoon practice after leading the session for much of the opening hour.
But he feels that Mercedes are moving in the right direction after frustrating races in Australia and Malaysia to open the season. "Today we made a small step forward, particularly this morning where we learnt some positive things with the car compared to Malaysia. The balance was quite good today," said Rosberg.
"We don't really know where we are right now, but today's running gives me hope for an improved performance tomorrow (in qualifying)."
Rosberg finished on the podium in Shanghai last year when he was third behind McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, but Mercedes have struggled this season after showing impressive pace in the final pre-season test in Spain in March.
Rosberg admitted he has been taken aback by Mercedes' slow start to the year. "We are not extracting everything from the car and that's what we need to work on. We are still lacking pace compared to where we want to be," he said. "I'm not worried, but it's going to be very difficult to move far up from where we are."
"shumi" at the Mercedes garage at Shanghai
Rosberg's teammate, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, was fifth in afternoon practice, finishing 0.162secs adrift of the younger Rosberg.
The 42-year-old Schumacher, who took the most recent of his 91 career wins at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2006, said a change of focus by Mercedes on Friday led to better results.
"We have changed our working approach this weekend and I think this has paid off. We concentrated mainly on high fuel loads, and it seems we can find the set-up better than starting from low fuel," the German legend said. "The long runs were good, which is clearly an improvement on the first two races, (but) there is room for further improvement."