Mercedes is hoping that Nico Rosberg’s victory in the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday – the first for Mercedes as a works team since 1955 – is just the first of many.
The 26-year-old, who is now one of the favourites for the title, said that he was looking forward to what was to come. “We are looking strong and I am sure we can continue what we have started,” he said after achieving his first Grand Prix victory in his 111th race.
Newspapers around the world praised Rosberg, with L’Equipe writing: “Mercedes has a new star”, while The Daily Telegraph took a bit of a swipe at world champions Sebastian Vettel as they wrote: “You could have thought that Formula One has had enough of Germans who show their finger in victory. But not this German.” The two McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who lead the drivers’ standings and finished third and second respectively in Shanghai, admitted that they no longer feared only Vettel.
“I am certain it will not be Nico’s first and last victory. Many more will follow,” former world champion Button said. “I think we will see a tight battle.” Vettel, who is still waiting for his first victory of the season, is surprised at Mercedes’ potential. “Mercedes won really comfortably, they did that well.” The Red Bull driver is currently fifth in the drivers’ standings ahead of Sunday’s controversial Bahrain Grand Prix. “We have learnt a lot.
“Hopefully we can draw the right conclusions from that,” the 24-year-old said.
Red Bull, who at this stage of the season last year had 41 points more than they have now, (105 in 2011; 64 in 2012) are clearly not as dominant as they were in 2011. “We are missing a bit of speed on the straights,” Vettel admitted.
The world championship promises to remain close and now even Mercedes has joined in the hunt for the title, with their second driver Michael Schumacher looking strong until a mistake during a pit stop forced him to retire.
“He showed that he can compete at the top,” Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said.
Hamilton leads the standings with 45 points, while Button has 43.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is third on 37 points, with Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber on 36.
Even Vettel (28) and Rosberg (25) have a chance to push themselves forward with a good showing in Bahrain.
Sunday’s race in the Middle East will be a further indication whether Mercedes is strong enough to really challenge the trio consisting of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, who have dominated Formula One for the past two seasons.
Like last year, when the season-opening race in Bahrain was cancelled, there has been plenty of controversies around the race in the Middle East.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has argued that sport and politics should be separate, said last week that the race would go ahead.
However, it is said that some of the teams are not in favour of travelling to the country, where pro-democracy demonstrations have been ongoing.
The CEO of the Bahrain International Circuit Zayed Al Zayani has promised that nothing untoward will happen. “I don’t think anything drastic will happen. It’s not Afghanistan, it’s not Syria.” He said that there could be some unrest in rural villages, but that could be handled easily. “I have no doubt at all that Formula One is not a target, not the teams, not the media,” he said.
Several media organizations have, however, already said that they will not travel to the troubled Gulf kingdom, where last year the race was cancelled after more than 30 people were killed during unrest.
Although there have been much fewer fatalities this year, there had again been calls from human rights organizations to call off the race, but the sports’ controlling body FIA decided to go ahead.