Shanghai, China - Michael Schumacher refused to tempt fate on Saturday after returning to the front row of the Formula 1 grid for the first time since 2006.Even though it was at the circuit where he took his 91st and – and most recent - last win that year.Asked if he felt he was closing the circle and was capable of picking up where he left off by winning again in China, the seven-times World champion smiled and replied: "I'll tell you tomorrow."RUSTY AT TIMESThe former Ferrari ace, now 43, has not stood on an F1 podium since he ended three years of retirement to come back with Mercedes in 2010. Since then he’s had to put up with critics saying he was over the hill, would never again be a winner, had lost his touch and was in danger of damaging his legacy as the sport's most successful driver.He looked rusty at times through the previous two years but rarely, if at all, has he shown self-doubt or wavered in his belief that he could return to the top of the podium, given the tools.Now Mercedes is coming up with what he needs.On Saturday, he was third-fastest but moved up to the second slot on the front row alongside compatriot and team mate Nico Rosberg because McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was handed a five-place penalty for an out-of-schedule gearbox change."When you’re in difficulties, you know what it means to get out of them. It needs patience and focus and that's what we all had. Now we’re taking the fruits of all the work and effort we put in," he said.'WE'VE BEEN CONSISTENT'The German's contract will end when the 2012 season does but team principal Ross Brawn, who followed him from Benetton to Ferrari and then brought him to Mercedes, has set no limits. He told reporters after the amazing qualifying sessions:"We’ve been consistent in believing that Michael could continue to produce the results we've all seen in his career. It was a fact that we've not had a good enough car."I think it's great for the team, it's great for him and for F1. To see Michael Schumacher up there is a great bonus for F1. Michael's second period in F1 is... viewed differently by the public – they’re more enthusiastic to see him do well."Schumacher was dominant in the early years of the new millennium. He won five titles in a row with Ferrari and set record after record without real rivals in what some dubbed 'Formula Yawn'."With the results he had in his first career it became almost automatic," recalled Brawn, Ferrari’s technical director in that golden age for the Italian glamour team. “Like any sport, when someone is dominating as Michael was able to, people get used to it and it's not so exciting, but seeing Michael back on the front row is great for him and the sport."To have two drivers in there, with Nico, is for Mercedes just sensational."'AROUND FOR SOME TIME'Mercedes has yet to find the race pace to match its cars’ obvious speed in qualifying; only one point from the first two races of 2012 after struggling to get the tyres to work in a tight performance window.The team has been working hard to resolve that, however, while also seeing off a protest from Lotus over a controversial rear wing. If it can build on Rosberg's pole, Schumacher could be around for some time."Everything is completely open," Brawn promised. "If it feels right for him and it feels right for us and things are going well, why would we want to stop? We've got a long way to go before we get there."It won't be a difficult decision, I'm sure, but it's far too early to get into speculation about what it's going to be."