Nico Rosberg could not have wished for a better start to the 2015 Formula 1 season after topping both of Friday’s free practice sessions in Melbourne, Australia.
Rosberg edged out Mercedes teammate and probable championship rival Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2, enjoying an aggregate advantage of 0.129 seconds at the end of the day.
Mercedes appears to have lost none of its pace from its record-breaking 2014 season, with Ferrari finishing some seven-tenths of a second down on the German team on Friday.
Rosberg was pleased that his practice results affirmed the faith that he had shown in the new Mercedes W06 Hybrid car during winter testing, and is already readying himself for a battle with Hamilton for the drivers’ title once again in 2015.
“It was great to be back in the car at this awesome track,” Rosberg said. “Today we have the evidence that our Silver Arrow is quick again and it was a great start for the team.
“I was very happy with my long run but on one lap I still need to work on the pace as I had a lot of oversteer in the car. It seems again that it’s very close between Lewis and me and he is a great driver, so I need to nail the setup every time to come out on top.
“This year will be a big battle again against him, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to the first weekend of the new season with all the great fans out there.”
In spite of Rosberg’s display, team boss Toto Wolff called on Mercedes to remain grounded at the start of the season, remaining wary of the pace that Ferrari and Williams may have in reserve.
“We need to keep our feet on the ground but it makes no sense to talk ourselves down: the performance is good and we look competitive,” Wolff said.
“But it wasn’t a seamless day, the drivers weren’t too happy with the car on the final run, so we have some work to do overnight to find the sweet spot.
“Looking at the field, it will be close with Ferrari and Williams, too. Of course, we don’t know fuel loads and don’t know what engine modes were run, whether it was really spicy or if there is still more to come.
“Like always: when the flag drops, the bull**** stops. Let’s see how it looks tomorrow.”
You can watch qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2a ET on Saturday. Click here for more details.