SHANGHAI (AP) — Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg expects another tight race with teammate Lewis Hamilton this weekend at the Chinese Grand Prix, although hopefully with a different ending.
The teammates dueled for the lead at the Bahrain GP throughout the race, coming inches away from colliding on several occasions, before Hamilton nipped Rosberg at the line by just one second.
“I don’t like coming second,” Rosberg said with a laugh Thursday in Shanghai.
“I know that I can win here,” he added, referring to his first career F1 victory at the Chinese GP in 2012. “I know that most likely it’s going to be against Lewis so that’s where my mind is at the moment.”
The Mercedes cars have been so far ahead of their rivals in the first three races of the Formula One season that Hamilton and Rosberg have been racing each other for first and second place. Hamilton topped his teammate in Bahrain and Malaysia, while Rosberg won the season opener in Australia after Hamilton, the pole sitter, retired with engine trouble.
The two are already seen as the two front-runners for the championship. Rosberg leads the standings with 61 points and Hamilton is in second with 50 – well ahead Force India’s Niko Hulkenberg in third at 28.
With no team orders in Bahrain, the two were allowed to race for the lead and were so close at times, Rosberg said, “I couldn’t have fit my hand between the tires.”
At one point, Rosberg thought his teammate got a bit too aggressive as they jostled for the lead around a corner, complaining to the team over the radio.
“That was the only example where I came on the radio which I though was above the limits,” he said.
The German said, however, there were no hard feelings after the race and that he and Hamilton would discuss it further Thursday evening to clear the air.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had a battle out on track and it’s not the first time that it’s been a little bit close,” he said. “It can be intense discussions afterwards, but we always then, with the necessary respect, move on afterwards and that’s how it’s always worked and I think it will work in the future.”
Although Hamilton and Rosberg get along relatively well compared to other F1 teammates, Hamilton acknowledged in Bahrain that their relationship could take a hit if they end up battling for the championship.
But the Briton, aiming for his third win in a row, had nothing but praise Thursday for the race his teammate contested in Bahrain.
“It was an exciting race,” Hamilton said. “I hope there are more races like that through the year.”
Their rivals will probably be hoping the two silver cars come back to the pack, given the dominance Mercedes has shown in the early stages of the new V6 turbo hybrid era.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the four-time defending world champion, stayed close to the Mercedes cars in Malaysia, finishing third. But the German said Thursday there’s still a big gap between the teams.
“They are the favorites going in,” he said. “We made some improvements here with the car but also with our power unit, so all in all, I think we should expect a step here, but how big the step is, we need to wait and see.
“Surely, it will be a massive surprise if we could close down the gap here.”