Michael Schumacher feels 'special' again

New season excites former Formula One world champion as all teams except Hispania launch their cars in Barcelona. Sports round-up

Michael Schumacher drives during a training session at Catalunya’s racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona, yesterday. The German is one of six world champions preparing for the 2012 season.
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BARCELONA // With Sebastian Vettel sewing up the world championship with four races remaining last season, the final quartet of 2011 grands prix, in terms of genuine, competitive, meaningful racing, had a somewhat lacklustre feel to them.

Fortunately, a new season brings with it new opportunity and while the name at the top of the time-sheets in Tuesday's second of three testing sessions in Spain may have been ominously familiar – Vettel posted a fastest lap of one minute, 23.265 seconds – there remains a genuine sense of excitement among the Formula One paddock about what lies in store this season.

Michael Schumacher, one of six world champions competing this year, launched the new Mercedes-GP W03 in the morning alongside Nico Rosberg, his teammate, at Circuit de Catalunya.

The unveiling means 11 of the 12 teams have now pulled back the covers on the models they hope will propel them towards their 2012 targets.

Only Hispania are yet to reveal their mechanical masterpiece, with the Spanish team choosing to wait until the final test on March 1 to launch their car for the new season.

"I have done quite a few roll-outs of new cars, but even after all these years, I must say it still feels special," said Schumacher, who as well as modelling the new range of team clothing (complete with little red Aabar sign on its sleeve) has also been provided a new Mercedes-GP-branded moped to get around this week.

"Days like this are precious moments, as they are always filled with hope and anticipation.

"For my part I am eager to fight again and am looking forward to the new season. I can't wait for it to begin."

The season starts in Melbourne on March 16-18, where a third of the 24 drivers who will line the grid were not involved last year.

As well as new faces such as Charles Pic of Marussia – note, no longer Marussia Virgin – and the Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso, drivers such as Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna have changed teams.

Petrov will race this year for Caterham – note, no longer Lotus – while Bruno Senna has swapped Renault for Williams.

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Petrov has yet to take to the track for his new team, with Heikki Kovalainen being given priority yesterday.

It was not an ideal start to the session for the Finn as his car suffered problems on his third run, stopping on track.

"That obviously wasn't how we wanted day one here to go, but that's what testing is for – pushing everything to the limit to make sure we get rid of the problems before we get to the first race," he said.

"It's hard to learn a lot from limited laps, but I'm back in the car on Friday and I'm sure we'll be able to push on with the programme between now and then."