Mercedes duo keen to capitalise on car's speed advantage in Malaysia
Sepang: This weekend's Malaysian GP is likely to witness a battle for supremacy between Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as the two drivers look to capitalise on the early-season speed of their 2014 car.
Lewis Hamilton (left) with Nico Rosberg at the Australian GP. Pic/Getty Images
Thanks to Mercedes coming to terms with the radical new regulations better than its rivals, Rosberg returned with a dominant win in the season-opening Australian GP.
"The chances are that we will be right at the front because it seems that we have a bit of an advantage over other people," said Rosberg, who will match the number of wins scored by his father Keke if he wins on Sunday.
But, the significant speed advantage Mercedes enjoys over its rivals is no guarantee of a perfect finish. The power units introduced this season have proven to be extremely fickle and far from reliable.
Reliability will be even more of a concern in Malaysia, with ambient temperatures in the thirties, combined with stifling humidity and track temperatures that often climb well into the forties making it a hard race for the cars.
Lewis Hamilton, in particular, knows how much reliability counts for this year after being forced to retire from the Australian GP less than five laps into the race despite having started on pole position.
He was the only driver who could have run Rosberg close and he arrives in Malaysia in a bullish mood and eager to get his title charge underway.
"When you lose 25 points, that's a serious deficit to catch up but as you can see from just one race, one DNF, you can gain quite a lot," Hamilton said. "I hope that for our team we don't have any more DNFs throughout the rest of the year and I just work as hard as I can to catch it back up."
To add to the uncertainty, rain is an ever-present threat in Malaysia and, depending on when it hits, can change the complexion of the race.
It also has the potential to act as a leveller of performance and, as witnessed in qualifying in Australia, could allow the quicker runners to get in there among the two Mercedes.