Nico Rosberg believes he is in the driver’s seat to claim a maiden world championship after a crucial second place finish in Canada.
The German moved 22 points clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the two-way battle between the Mercedes drivers after the Briton was forced to retire from the Canadian Grand Prix just under two weeks ago.
Now, ahead of the first Austrian Grand Prix in 11 years at the revamped Red Bull Ring, the two Silver Arrows are expected to battle it out for victory in Spielberg despite losing their stranglehold on the top step of the podium to the home team and four-time champions Red Bull in Montreal.
The scenario for Hamilton is almost identical to that he faced after the opening round in Australia as the 2008 champion was forced to retire and Rosberg went on to claim victory.
After that race Hamilton reeled off four straight wins to make up the then 25 point gap to Rosberg indeed briefly moving ahead before finishing second to the German in Monaco followed by the problems in Canada.
It is the breaking of the momentum that Hamilton had built since Melbourne that Rosberg believes now gives him the psychological advantage heading into the middle of the season.
“If your team-mate has three or four wins in a row that’s obviously going to strengthen his position,” Rosberg told PA.
“So it was really important to bring that run to an end because psychology is a big part of sports. If you have those results behind you, like I do now, it gives you that little bit extra, that little bit of an edge, so it does help. It’s important.”
Prior to Canada, Mercedes had enjoyed victory at every race this year – with a one-two finish in the last five, however, as Daniel Ricciardo overtook an also ailing Rosberg in the closing laps in Montreal the dream of winning every race in 2014 also ended.
For Rosberg, though he admits his second place was “damage limitation”, the problem both cars had in Canada highlighted Mercedes’ need to keep improving.
“For the team it sucked because our ambition is to do much better. With reliability problems like that, it’s not good. We need to be bulletproof,” he admitted.
“It’s a work in progress. We’ve been good with reliability, but we have had a few problems now, so we have to keep on going and make sure it’s 100 per cent, but of course it’s never easy.”
With the power advantage Mercedes enjoys it seems reliability could be the only hurdle to another one-two result on the long straights of the Red Bull Ring.
After the Austrian round the season then enters perhaps the two biggest races of the season with Hamilton’s home race at Silverstone followed by Rosberg’s home race at Hockenheim.
Looking ahead the German believes his team needs to rebound from the disappointment in Montreal and concentrate on a perfect rest of the season.
“It sucks because our car is fast enough to win every race, so coming away from Canada without the win was a big disappointment for our team,” he said.
“We need to bounce back in Austria and finish one-two in every race given the car we have.”
Currently the championship advantage does indeed rest with Rosberg, however as Canada proved, it just takes one retirement or mistake to see what appears to be a big lead disappear.
Where Rosberg does seem to have the edge over Hamilton is consistency, in a trouble-free weekend for both drivers it is apparent Lewis is the faster driver, but it’s when trouble hits that Rosberg’s seemingly less aggressive approach works.
Of course this doesn’t mean Rosberg would be any less immune to a car failure than Hamilton is, but what it does also suggest is the 2008 champion may need another streak of results, like the one he had after Australia, if he is to catch Rosberg and claim his second championship.
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