Mercedes: The Art of Bouncing Back
“I am ready to go again definitely, it’s been a long break.” Despite an extremely tense and sometimes controversial championship fight in 2014, Nico Rosberg showed the whole way through that he is a force to be reckoned with at Mercedes. When Lewis signed for the German giant in 2013, most of the viewing public expected him to establish himself over Nico as the dominant driver fairly easily. However, it was very evident very quickly that this would not be the case, and by the time 2014 came around, we had one of the most exciting inter-team and championship battles since the days of Prost and Senna.
But unlike Lewis, fighting for a world championship was a new experience for Nico – is it possible that he might not be able to deal with the disappointment of missing out on a title? “Thankfully it goes pretty quickly, when there is success or not success, it takes a few days and I get over it.” True to his word, Nico had started to look like he used last year’s heart ache to spur him on. After narrowly shading Lewis in winter testing, Rosberg had been on top in both Free Practice sessions on Friday in Australia ahead of Round 1 of the new season.
And we shouldn’t be surprised by Nico’s early pace. After all, he won the Mercedes inter-team qualifying battle 12-7 in 2014, and it wouldn’t have been a stretch to imagine him being on pole for Sunday’s main event. It is race craft where Nico has some ground to make up. As we saw in several of last year’s races, Lewis has dominated Nico in wheel to wheel battles – it was in this key area that most will say the title was decided.
Lewis has been his usual calm and collected self into the build-up for the season. He is, however, not getting complacent. When asked about how he saw the 2015 season panning out following Practice, his response was, “It’s as tight as always, it is always going to be close between us.” Lewis appreciates that Nico, with revenge on his mind, will be a formidable foe once again. But you have to still fancy Lewis to once again come out on top – now with his second world title under his belt, the pressure is in a way now off him. The feeling from the Hamilton camp always was that title number 2 would be key to relaxing the Brit, and I would have to agree. And that is dangerous for the rest of the field – a relaxed Hamilton is an extremely fast one. And so he proved to be – Lewis beat Rosberg to pole in Melbourne by over 6 tenths, and a massive 1.4 seconds clear of 3rd place Massa, prior to wiping the floor with the competition on race day. Hamilton actually finished over 30 seconds clear of Vettel’s Ferrari in 3rd.
As for Rosberg? It might sound ridiculous, but despite his comfortable 2nd place, it was a poor showing from Nico, considering the bar he had set in 2014. After missing Pole by 6th tenths, you couldn’t help but worry for Nico in the race; and from the off it was clear he did not have the pace to match Lewis. What does this mean for 2015? It may be too early to say. One thing is for sure, if we are to see any kind of challenge to Lewis, it will have to come from Nico. Mercedes are so far ahead of the competition that they may as well send the constructors trophy back over to them now. This means Rosberg will have to massively up his game – but in the wake of missing out in 2014, and being dealt the first psychological blow in 2015, it’s not got off to the best of starts.