Rosberg out to wreck Mercedes teammate Hamilton hat-trick bid

Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 6 April 2014.

Lewis Hamilton can chalk up three wins in a row for the first time in his Formula 1 career on Sunday but Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg will be doing all he can to deny him the hat-trick.

Returning to the Chinese circuit where he took his first pole and victory in 2012, Rosberg has been runner-up in the last two races but still leads the championship by 11 points after his season-opening success in Australia.

The pair served up a thriller under the floodlights in Bahrain 10 days ago and another wheel-to-wheel duel in China would be a further boost for a sport fighting back against criticism of its new regulations.

Hamilton, the 2008 champion, is ready to do his bit.

“I’m in a really good place at the moment and walking around the garage too, you can see the positive energy within the team right now,” he said in a team preview.

Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg  Mercedes AMG F1 W05  Bahrain Grand Prix

“I’m getting stronger every time I come to this track and it suits my driving style quite well. The aim, as always, is to win and if I could make it three in a row this weekend that would be incredible.”

The Briton is one of only two drivers to have won twice in Shanghai – Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is the other – but Hamilton still has painful memories of throwing away a championship lead when he went into a gravel trap at the circuit in 2007.

Rosberg will seize on any such slip-ups. The German ended his team mate’s bid for three poles in a row with the quickest lap in qualifying in Bahrain and then showed just how little separates the two on track.

“The layout seems to suit my driving style, it’s a track I enjoy racing at and I want to be back on that top step of the podium this weekend,” the German said.

The Mercedes V6 turbo power unit has been the pick of the field, and the circuit will play to their strengths, but rivals are pulling out all the stops to catch up.

Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 6 April 2014.

Remi Taffin, head of track operations for Red Bull’s engine partner Renault, said the manufacturer was feeling more confident after a troubled start to the season.

“At the test in Bahrain [after the race], we tested several new software modes that will see us closer to the limits of the power unit than before,” he said.

“Overall we’re looking forward to China. While we know it’s still an uphill battle, we feel we have hit our stride now.”

That could be good news for champions Red Bull, who lost an appeal on Monday to have Daniel Ricciardo’s second place in Melbourne reinstated, even though they are expecting another tough weekend.

“Mercedes are again going to be very difficult to beat…given the kilometre-long straight,” said Team Principal Christian Horner, whose team took their first F1 win in China with Sebastian Vettel in 2009. “But then once we get back to Europe we need to start making inroads into [their lead].”

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Bahrain Grand Prix - Race Day - Sakhir, Bahrain

McLaren, now third overall behind Force India after a double-retirement at the Sakhir circuit, are bringing some updates and looking for solid points.

“Bahrain showed that, the top two cars aside, the racing this year is fast, fraught and very evenly matched,” said Jenson Buttton. “The margins are so slim that it’ll require us to get everything right.

“But I’ve always enjoyed racing in China – I won here in 2010, and I’ve always had good results here for McLaren. While it’s not necessarily a track that perfectly suits our package, I think we can pull everything together and have a stronger weekend.”

Ferrari won last year with Alonso but Stefano Domenicali quit as team principal this week with Ferrari North America President Marco Mattiacci taking the helm.

Whether anything changes on the track for the glamour team remains to be seen, with the Spaniard and Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen struggling home ninth and 10th in Bahrain.

“We are ninth and 10th because there were eight people who were better than us,” Alonso, who has urged Ferrari to work day and night, told reporters in Bahrain. “We want to change this as soon as possible and that needs to start in China.”

Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday 14 April 2013.

Statistics for Sunday’s Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai:

  • Lap distance: 5.451 km. Total distance: 305.066 km (56 laps) Start time: 07:00 GMT (15:00 local).
  • 2013 pole: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:34.484.
  • 2013 winner: Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari.
  • Race lap record: Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari one minute 32.238 seconds (2004).
  • Tyres: Medium (white), Soft (yellow).
  • Quadruple world champion Vettel has 39 career wins, Fernando Alonso 32, Lewis Hamilton 24, Kimi Raikkonen 20 and Jenson Button 15. Nico Rosberg has four.
  • Vettel needs two more race victories to equal the late Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41. Only Alain Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91) have won more.
  • Ferrari have won 221 races, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 46.
  • Hamilton’s win for Mercedes in Bahrain put him level with the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in the all time lists. One more win would equal Niki Lauda and Jim Clark’s tally.
  • Hamilton has won the last two races but has yet to win three in a row in his F1 career.
  • Vettel took nine poles last year, and now has 45 for his F1 career, but has not been on pole in 2014.
  • Hamilton (Australia, Malaysia) and team mate Rosberg (Bahrain) are the only drivers to start on pole this year.
  • Hamilton has 33 poles, equalling Jim Clark’s British record which has stood since 1968.
  • Ferrari’s last pole position was in Germany with Fernando Alonso in 2012.
  • Ferrari have finished a record 70 successive races with at least one car in the points, a run that dates back to the 2010 German Grand Prix.
  • Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point after four seasons in F1.
  • Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat is Formula One’s youngest points scorer, aged 19 years and 324 days.
  • Five of the 10 Chinese Grands Prix have been won from pole.
  • No driver has ever won in China two years in a row. Hamilton (2008, 2011) and Alonso (2005, 2013) are the only drivers with two wins there.
  • Ferrari have won four times, McLaren three.
  • Button and Alonso are the only drivers to have finished every Chinese Grand Prix. Only three times has the winner in China gone on to take the title that year.
  • Button is the only driver to have won in China while reigning world champion.
  • The 1.17 km back straight is the longest on the current Formula One calendar.
  • Rosberg took his first F1 pole and win in China in 2012. The circuit also saw Red Bull’s first F1 win in 2009. (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.