Rosberg empowered by Schumacher departure

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Nico Rosberg says he enjoys a greater say in affairs at Mercedes following the departure of Michael Schumacher.

Lewis Hamilton replaced Schumacher as Rosberg’s team mate this year. Hamilton and Rosberg were previously team mates in karting in 2000 and 2001.

Rosberg said the team is “very” different in Schumacher’s absence.

“I now have a stronger voice,” Rosberg said, “and to me that’s a beautiful process in which I can help Mercedes become the best team.”

Rosberg and Schumacher joined the team together in 2010 – Rosberg arriving from Williams, Schumacher returning from retirement. Rosberg out-scored Schumacher in each of their three seasons as team mates, amassing 342 points to Schumacher’s 197. Rosberg also scored the team’s breakthrough victory in last year’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Rosberg, who took pole position for the last race in Bahrain, said his aim is on scoring further wins this year, admitting the title is a “big goal”.

“Now I want to win races, because success is the most fun … We want to improve ourselves – in the direction of race wins.”

New team mate Hamilton has finished on the podium twice this year while Rosberg is yet to do so. Hamilton beat Rosberg to a podium finish in Malaysia after Rosberg was ordered to stay behind the sister car in the closing stages.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski