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Published April 1, 2010


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Michael Schumacher is not writing off the Formula One championship but concedes his Mercedes car is less competitive than others on the grid.

The Mercedes team is eyeing the podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday but seven-time world champion Schumacher said Wednesday that "probably is the maximum we can look for at the moment."

The Mercedes is having difficulty following other cars closely, Schumacher added — and overtaking is "almost impossible unless someone makes a mistake."

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"From our side we are not the most competitive car at the moment," he said. "We are here for the best. It is a little bit difficult to position ourselves right now."

Mercedes — which won the 2009 championship as Brawn GP — has had a challenging start to the season, lagging behind the other top teams in terms of performance. They have collected 29 points from the first two races to place third in the constructors' standings after Ferrari and McLaren but Schumacher remains positive about the team's chances.

"It's too early to write off the championship for now," said Schumacher. "We still can fight for the championship."

Team principal Ross Brawn was more upbeat about achieving a podium position at the Sepang International Circuit, though the team acknowledges that the cars of Schumacher and his teammate Nico Rosberg needed to be improved.

"We'd like to get on the podium this weekend… There is no reason why that shouldn't be possible," Brawn said, adding he was hoping for rain as the two German drivers were strong in wet-weather conditions.

Brawn also said it was "far too early to say how the championship is going to develop."

"There have been lots of seasons where the start is quiet and it gets stronger, and there are lots of seasons where it starts strong and then gets quiet," he said.

The team is working to improve the car's aerodynamics and mechanics to make it more competitive, Brawn said. Schumacher said the car will be upgraded by the Barcelona race in early May.

Rosberg said the team is "quite a step behind" favourites Ferrari and Red Bull, which are seen to have the fastest cars — though Red Bull has suffered problems with reliability and currently lies below Mercedes in the constructors' championship.

"We have to push very hard to catch them again," he said. "We have big steps coming so I look forward to it, and I hope that we can close the gap to the people in front."

Rosberg said he was looking forward to Sunday's race as it is on one of his favourite tracks.

Brawn added it was "normal" for Schumacher to take two or three races to settle in and get back to his maximum speed after returning to the sport following a three-year absence. The 41-year-old Schumacher retired after the 2006 season but was tempted back to racing at the end of last year.

Schumacher insisted he was "quite happy I've made the maximum out of my possibilities."

Schumacher finished 10th in the Australian Grand Prix and sixth in the season's opener in Bahrain, placing him eighth in the drivers' standings with nine points. Rosberg came fifth in both races, leaving him fifth with 20 points.

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