Michael Schumacher is confident Mercedes will have a strong race pace at the Italian Grand Prix after he qualified eighth on the grid.

11640 - Schumacher expects strong race

Mercedes have looked quick all weekend and have troubled the top six during practice on occasion, but Schumacher struggled to replicate that form in qualifying and will start behind Vitaly Petrov's Renault and the usual top six.

His team-mate Nico Rosberg, in ninth, opted to save a set of soft tyres for the race by qualifying on the slower hard compound, while Schumacher stuck with the conventional strategy of opting for softs. Nevertheless, Schumacher is confident he is in a strong position for the race.

"Qualifying today went mostly according to plan," he said. "I don't think we could have taken much more; maybe I could have ended up one place higher. I didn't have an ideal fast lap as I tried to use the slip stream from Lewis [Hamilton] but then he locked up in the second chicane which made me lock up too.

"However I will be on soft tyres tomorrow which should be better for my race. As our race pace looked quite good yesterday, I was more focusing on the race and trying to use the tyres in the right way. For tomorrow, I will try to get a good start and take it from there."

Team principal Ross Brawn said race pace had been the team's primary focus since first practice on Friday.

"Tyre management will be crucial in the race, and we were very mindful with both cars that we must start the race on the same tyres as we qualified on," he said. "For Nico, we opted for a prudent approach by running the hard tyre which could open up a nice opportunity for him tomorrow and it will be very interesting to see how he progresses.

"Michael decided to use the soft tyre in Q3, but only completed a single lap to preserve them for the race. Both drivers have fresh sets for the race - two sets of softs for Nico, and one for Michael - so we will see how this afternoon's tactical decisions play out. I think we can look forward to plenty of action."