SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) Having won two years in a row in the verdant Austrian hills, and coming off a victory in the maiden Formula One street race in Azerbaijan, Nico Rosberg is naturally confident about the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.
Rosberg has increased his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton again after the win in Baku, and could join Alain Prost as a three-time Austria winner.
“To have two wins from two races at any track is pretty special, so if I could make it three in three that would be awesome,” Rosberg said.
“That was a good weekend for me,” he said of the race in Baku. “I really felt at one with the car, so that’s a big positive looking ahead to the next races. Austria has been a real strength for us as a team in the past two years.
“Our Silver Arrow is still definitely the best package on the grid, and I can’t wait to see what it can do in Spielberg.”
Another win would leave defending champion Hamilton with a huge deficit. Rosberg already leads by 24 points, and another 25 points for the victory in Austria would send Rosberg closer to his first title, considering the supremacy the Mercedes cars have enjoyed in the last few seasons.
Hamilton, who finished behind Rosberg in the two previous Austrian races, was fifth in Baku, after crashing in qualifying and experiencing engine problems.
“I’ve put it behind,” Hamilton said.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team has to get rid of “small mistakes” that have cost points “here and there.”
“Force India has been very strong recently, Williams are always quick in Spielberg and, of course, there is the constant threat from Ferrari and Red Bull, particularly at a home race for the latter.”
The Austrian GP returned to the schedule in 2014, is held on the Red Bull Ring, and is a home race for the team of the same name. But the relatively short course of only nine curves hasn’t yet been a successful track for Red Bull. Its best result was eighth in 2014 and 10th in 2015.
“Spielberg always has a pretty awesome atmosphere, and the setting is pretty amazing,” Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo said. “The circuit is quite short but is also fun. I would love a few more corners but it is a fun track for what it is, quite flowing and fast.
“We haven’t had the results we would like there in the past but we’re coming there with our best package yet, so hopefully that can put us up into the top five.”
Ricciardo has extended his contract with Red Bull until 2018.
Teammate Max Verstappen, the surprise winner in Barcelona, wasn’t too optimistic.
“Here in Austria, Mercedes can’t be beaten,” he said.
The weather could be a major factor, with thunderstorms and rain predicted for the weekend and Sunday’s race.