Nico Rosberg: lurking in the shadows?

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When Mercedes finished quickest at the final pre-season test in Barcelona, the immediate response from the F1 fraternity was “could Lewis Hamilton win the world championship in 2013?” However, the driver who finished on top in Barcelona was in fact Hamilton’s teammate, Nico Rosberg. Could he be poised to involve himself in the championship race?

Since joining Mercedes in 2010, Rosberg has met some success, albeit far less than expected. His highlight came at last year’s Chinese Grand Prix, where he put the car on pole position and coasted to an easy win as the Mercedes W03 was unstoppable in the cold conditions. In Monaco, he managed to finish a strong second behind Mark Webber, and fifth place finishes in Bahrain and Singapore were also impressive.

Rosberg and Hamilton have been great friends ever since they were teammates in go-karts, so the pairing is ideal for Mercedes as there is little chance of controversy. Hamilton may be the star joining the German outfit, yet it is Rosberg who will feel ‘at home’ as he enters his fourth year with the team.

Is Rosberg capable of matching Hamilton in the same car though? His win in China was one of the most comfortable of 2012, and his pace in testing was superb. Hamilton’s time may have been set one day earlier, but the four-tenth gap between the drivers will concern the Briton. Nico has proven himself to be a race winner and a driver with enormous talent. If Mercedes can provide him with the car this year, he could challenge Hamilton for the championship, emulating his father, Keke, who won the title in 1982.

All the talk may be playing up Hamilton’s chances, and the reserved Rosberg will be happy with this. Lurking in the shadows, Nico could quieten the clamor caused by Hamilton’s arrival by winning in Melbourne, relying that Mercedes’ testing pace continues.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”