Michael Schumacher looked forward to being a contender again as his Mercedes team belatedly pulled the wraps off their shiny new Formula One car before testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday.
If the F1 W03 was far from attractive, with the by-now familiar stepped nose seen on all the other 2012 cars with the sole exception of McLaren, the sport's most successful driver declared it a beautiful moment.
"I have done quite a few roll-outs and launches of new cars, but even after all these years, I must say it still feels special," said the seven times champion before beginning the second official pre-season test.
The German and team mate Nico Rosberg had both driven 50km in the car last week for a filming day at Silverstone but had used their 2011 car at the first pre-season test in Jerez last month.
Their main rivals Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari all unveiled their new cars before the start of the first of three tests scheduled before the 20 race season kicks off in Australia on March 18.
"Days like this are precious moments, as they are always filled with hope and anticipation," Schumacher said.
"Already last week, when we were driving the F1 W03 for the very first time, it instantly gave us good feedback and sensations.
"Starting today, we will work intensively to make it a competitive runner," said the 43-year-old, who started his comeback in 2010 after retiring as a Ferrari driver in 2006.
"Obviously, we will only see over the next couple of weeks how big the step is that we have made... For my part, I am eager to fight again, looking forward to the new season, and I can't wait for it to begin."
Schumacher has not been on the podium since 2006 and Mercedes have finished fourth in the two seasons since they bought 2009 champions Brawn GP, run by team principal Ross Brawn.
Brawn said the team, who have invested heavily in technical staff, had to go forward in the standings and were quietly confident they could do that.
Mercedes said the new car was better packaged and more efficient and also composed of some 200 more parts than the 2011 one while having a lower core weight.
"The F1 W03 is a car that I believe, and hope, our team can be proud of, and which will deliver the on-track results that everybody has worked so hard to achieve," said Brawn, who recognised the stepped nose was "an acquired taste".
The Briton said the new car was a clear step forward over its predecessor in sophistication and also a better integrated package.
"Last year, we produced a very bold car and, although its more radical elements didn't always deliver the results we had hoped for, the experience we gained has been invaluable to the design of the 2012 car," he said.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|