Sepang: Mercedes need to do a better job to convert their qualifying speed into race pace, Michael Schumacher said at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Thursday.

The seven times Formula One world champion, who retired with a gearbox failure in Melbourne last weekend while running as high as third place, felt fifth was the highest he could have finished in the Australian season-opener.

Schumacher had qualified fourth while team mate Nico Rosberg started seventh. The younger German was fourth at one point but fell back through the field to finish 12th.

"We certainly understood in Melbourne that we have to do a better job in terms of race pace. I don't think we would have been able to achieve a podium in Melbourne, despite going all the way through," said the 43-year-old Schumacher.

"Nevertheless, we have good ideas how to improve on what we learned from Melbourne."

"Whether that means we're going to be on the podium or not, that's another story because you obviously have at least four cars which are very strong, with two McLarens, two Red Bulls and then you have quite a big group of cars which are very close to each other," Schumacher said.

Schumacher, in the third year of his comeback but yet to stand on the podium since he retired from Ferrari in 2006, also said that the gearbox problem had been fixed.

"We did quite a few thousand kilometers in winter testing and never had this issue. We understood it though, and fixed it," he said.