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Lauda predicts Schumacher back on top in Malaysia GP
Niki Lauda
Three-time champion Niki Lauda is confident Michael Schumacher will be back at his very best by the time the F1 circus reaches Malaysia for the third round of the season.

Lauda returned to the sport in 1982 after two years in retirement and went on to win his third title in 1984. Lauda said Schumacher's comeback in Bahrain, where he qualified seventh and finished sixth, was as good as could have been expected from someone who had taken three years out of the sport.

"It was a perfect performance," Lauda told the official Formula One website. "You can hardly start any better. He ran very little over the winter, due to test restrictions, and got into a modified car he had never driven before, so it was simply impossible for him to clock a qualification lap at the push of a button. I'd suppose he needs about three races to get back up to the same level he was at. When you take all that into account, he did a superb qualification lap, even compared to Nico who was only three-tenths faster. My guess is that in Kuala Lumpur he will have regained that ability to switch on for a fast lap that every permanent driver has to have."

He added that he sees Red Bull as having the fastest car on the grid despite Ferrari winning the opening round in Bahrain.

"For the moment it is Red Bull as the leader of the pack, followed by Ferrari, then McLaren and Mercedes are almost even," Lauda said. "Lewis [Hamilton], [Sebastian] Vettel and both Mercedes were very close [to Ferrari in the race], so it definitely looks like we are going to see a very tight championship. The question now will be about who can develop at the fastest rate."

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