SOCHI, Russia: Nico Rosberg is ready for a Lewis Hamilton fightback in this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
The championship-leading German believes his Mercedes team-mate will “bounce back” and he is set for a fierce scrap in Sunday’s race at the Sochi Autodrom.
“I have been driving really well, but my opposition had a really messy start and I definitely expect them to bounce back—especially Lewis,” he said.
“It is going to be really tough, like always. There is a massively long way to go still,” Rosberg added.
Rosberg, winner of six races in succession including three at the end of last season, said he was staying calm and cautious with 18 contests ahead.
“I’m pleased with myself and the way I’m driving,” he said. “But, for me, it’s not six straight. It’s three because I only count from the start of this season.”
He added that he also expected a strong challenge from Ferrari.
“Ferrari, among others, haven’t shown what they can do yet. Look, they took each other out at the first corner at the last race! They are quicker than they have shown,” the German added.
Rosberg hopes to enlarge his 36 points lead ahead of defending three-time champion Hamilton but knows that to do that he has to stop the Briton claiming his first win of the year – and in seven outings – by completing a Sochi hat-trick.
Hamilton said he was aware that he cannot allow Rosberg to pull further clear in the title race.
“Who knows how the weekend will go? It could be as bad as in the past, but I’m hoping it will be positive,” said Hamilton, who has been second, third and seventh this year.
“And, for me, of course, there is an urgency—I can’t really afford to fall any further behind,” Hamilton said.
Sebastian Vettel admitted both he and Ferrari are feeling the pressure after a slow start to their season.
Three straight Mercedes wins by Rosberg have left the Italian team adrift, but four-time champion Vettel remained confident of a successful campaign.
“There is pressure – we put it on ourselves,” said Vettel. “That’s the way it is.”
“I guess there is a natural sense of pressure. I think there were races where I was happy—and occasions I know I didn’t do the best job possible. That’s how it is. The expectation from the outside is not as high as it is from the inside — and when you finish second the year before, it is natural,” he said.
“We didn’t have the first three races we were looking for, but we’ve shown we are in a better position than last year. We said many times that we are much happier with the car—it gives us more room to play so we are on the right track so I am not overly concerned,” Vettel added.