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Vettel was the quickest in a Formula One testing session

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image Michael Schumacher of Germany, right, and Nico Rosberg of Germany uncover the new F1 W03 during the official presentation of Mercedes GP Formula one team 2012 at the Montmelo racetrack near Barcelona, Spain

Michael Schumacher tried out his 2012 Mercedes for the first time Tuesday, setting the sixth fastest time in a Formula One testing session, well behind leader Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull. Vettel, the two-time defending F1 champion, was the quickest at Catalunya Circuit with a lap of 1 minute, 23.265 seconds to finish nearly nine-tenths of a second ahead of seven-time champion Schumacher.
Nico Hulkenberg of Force India trailed Vettel by just under two-tenths of a second. Lewis Hamilton of McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso were next, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso edging out Schumacher for fifth. Lotus, meanwhile, abandoned the session with a chassis problem. “Not running this week has been a tough decision to take, but we feel that our choice is the right one,” said Lotus team principal Eric Boullier, whose outfit — the team formerly known as Renault — produced the fastest of the 2012 designs in the season’s first test at Jerez last week.

Bahrain holds F1 race

The head of an independent inquiry into Bahrain’s unrest expressed support for holding its Formula One race, saying it offers a chance for the divided country to come together “after all that happened in the last year.” Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni sent the letter Sunday to Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani after tickets went on sale for the April 22 race. The letter was also sent to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. Bassiouni said the race was “a significant national event” which is of “great interest” to most people in the Gulf nation. Bahrain’s season-opening race last year was canceled because of Shiite-led demonstrations against the country’s Sunni rulers that have left at least 40 dead.

Mercedes used its 2011 car at the first test session in Jerez last week, and Schumacher’s initial feelings were “good” from his first drive in the F1 W03 Silver Arrow. “It’s certainly an improvement and we have worked hard on the areas we had defined last year,” said Schumacher, who is looking for a big improvement in the third season of his comeback. “For my part, I am eager to fight again, looking forward to the new season — and I can’t wait for it to begin.”
Sergio Perez was seventh despite his Sauber experiencing technical problems, while Vettel complained about his traction grip as cars become accustomed to Pirelli’s new batch of tires due to regulation changes.”It’s clear that the cars have less grip than last year, but we try to come back from that slowly,” Vettel said. “It’s difficult to judge where we are compared with the others right now. It’s all based on feeling, and the feeling I have inside the car at the moment is fine.” The season opens at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 18.


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