Nico Rosberg has admitted that he needs to improve on his starts in the Mercedes if he is to take the fight to his team-mate, in a season which is already firmly in the grasp of the German marque.
Despite securing victory in the opening round of the season at Australia after starting from third, Nico Rosberg has visibly struggled in relation to team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the races since.
During the season-opening Australian Grand Prix it quickly became apparent that Red Bull’s supremacy of the last three years was under severe threat, as Mercedes began the new campaign with pole position thanks to Britain’s Lewis Hamilton.
Although Daniel Ricciardo managed to start a strong second in the Red Bull, both the local hero and Lewis Hamilton were leapfrogged immediately by Nico Rosberg who catapulted himself into the lead and subsequent victory.
However, such a strong start from the German came with Daniel Ricciardo in an under-performing Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes with engine difficulties which forced him into retirement after only several laps.
Next time out in Malaysia Lewis Hamilton once again secured pole position, with Nico Rosberg once again third. Although the German’s start at the Sepang International Circuit allowed him to pounce upon fellow countryman and reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel for second into turn one, he was unable to question the clear superiority of Lewis Hamilton in the sister Mercedes.
As the Formula 1 fraternity reconvened around the Bahrain International Circuit for the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix night race, Nico Rosberg seemed to have turned his fortunes around with pole position over Lewis Hamilton.
However once the five red lights were extinguished the German’s minor advantage was immediately squandered as Lewis Hamilton breezed around his team-mate into turn one to secure a lead which would eventually allow him to take his second successive victory despite an enthralling battle between the duo.
After the wet qualifying session in China Nico Rosberg qualified fourth, which led to his worst start of the season when he was pounced upon by the Williams of Felipe Massa and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso at turn one. Despite his disastrous start Rosberg climbed back through the order to finish second once again behind Lewis Hamilton, whose ability to secure three successive victories was becoming the major talking point within the paddock.
Once again in Spain Nico Rosberg was out-qualified by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, despite an impressive performance from the German which initially looked as though he would take the spoils of qualifying in the Mercedes.
At the start Lewis Hamilton glided into a dominant lead into turn one, whereas Nico Rosberg was left side-by-side with Valtteri Bottas in the Williams. As was the case in Bahrain the German was able to opt for a differing strategy to his team-mate, which created an enthralling late race battle for supremacy which Nico Rosberg was once again unable to win.
Although he believes he could’ve pounced upon Lewis Hamilton for victory had the race continued for one more lap, Nico Rosberg fully understands that his starts desperately need addressing.
“The race was so close at the end today and with one more lap, I could have tried to overtake Lewis for the first time,” insisted Nico Rosberg, who has now lost his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to his team-mate. “My start was bad. It is a weakness that we have and we will try to improve.
“Once it was clear that I was in second place, we chose to go with the slower strategy using the prime tyres in the middle stint to get a shot at Lewis at the end when I was on the options.
“It was very close but not quite close enough so naturally I’m disappointed but I can take a lot of positives from this weekend. We have an amazing car and my pace was really strong here so I just need to find an extra little edge to capitalise on.”
With overtaking notoriously difficult and sometimes even inadvisable around the Monte-Carlo street circuit next time out for the Monaco Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg will understandably be hoping for either an early fix to his start-line woes or the ability to secure pole position and retain into turn one if he holds any ambitions of questioning Lewis Hamilton’s early authority within the team.
The German won the race last season around the Principality, with the inability to pass playing cleanly into his hands despite strong opposition from the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
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