MONTMELO – Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe believes that Nico Rosberg still has the ability to challenge for this year’s Formula 1 drivers’ championship despite failing to beat teammate Lewis Hamilton in any of the opening four races of the season.
Hamilton is currently enjoying a purple patch of form with Mercedes, winning nine of the last eleven races and claiming 286 of a possible 300 points in the same period.
In contrast, Rosberg has been unable to answer the form shown by his teammate through the same period, and currently trails Hamilton by 27 points after just four races of the 2015 season.
When asked about the difference between the two Mercedes drivers on Friday following practice, Lowe was quick to praise Hamilton, but feels that Rosberg still has enough fight to compete for this year’s world championship.
“I think Lewis is performing really at the top of his game,” Lowe said. “I’ve worked with Lewis actually throughout his F1 career and I would say at the moment he’s really at his peak – the best he’s been driving so far.
“That’s a tough prospect for any driver to compete with. Nico’s doing a great job. I was particularly pleased with how he performed in Bahrain. We let him down at the last minute, which is why he lost the second place, but you saw he did some fantastic driving, some great overtaking, which showed that he had great race craft.
“I think Nico is doing a good job. It’s just tough to beat Lewis. The season is still young and there’s plenty of prospect for a good battle between them.”
Mercedes has remained the team to beat in F1 this season, but Lowe rejected the idea of it slowing down its development driver despite bringing less upgrades to the Spanish Grand Prix than many of its rivals.
“We put in a very aggressive programme over the winter, both on the engine and on aerodynamics and other parts of the car,” he explained. “We expected a very tough season as the second iteration of this new formula, and we weren’t going to get through that without a lot of development on the performance of the car.
“I think credit to Ferrari, they’ve done a good job over the winter to make a big step to approach and even exceed our peformance from time to time, so that’s set the pace for a very tough competition through the year.”