Michael Schumacher is as good as he always was, his team has insisted.
Schumacher has been outqualified and outraced by team-mate Nico Rosberg in the first two races of the year, but Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug says the seven-time champion still has the same magic that drove him to seven world titles.
"He has got it. And we have one of the strongest driver pairings in the field," said Haug.
Haug pointed out Schumacher was baulked by Fernando alonso in qualifying in Australia, aadding that his car was then damaged during first corner contact in the race.
He added that Schumacher's critics should applaud the German because he took on the challenge of returning to F1 rather than shying away from it for fear of failure.
"If you look at qualifying Michael was handicapped behind Alonso, and it is fair to say it was a very comparable lap to Nico," said Haug.
"Michael is missing three years of these fours years, but he is here to be competitive. And he could sit on his sofa saying, 'nobody won more than I did', but this is his passion."