F1 championship leader Rosberg keen to overcome British GP setback in Germany
Nico Rosberg heads into this weekend's German Grand Prix all set to strike back against Lewis Hamilton in the championship battle, and give his already-giddy home fans another sporting high to cheer about.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg walks into the team's motorhome at Hockenheimring yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Rosberg arrives at the Hockenheimring circuit with a freshly-minted "multi-year" Mercedes contract extension in his pocket and with a chance of becoming the first German to win at home in a German car in Formula One.
A historic Rosberg win in a Mercedes, which would be the first by a works Silver Arrow on home soil since Juan Manuel Fangio won the German Grand Prix for Mercedes in 1954, would chime perfectly with the nation's recent World Cup triumph.
But more crucially for Rosberg, it would allow him to resume extending his lead in the overall standings. All year long, in a season dominated by Mercedes, the advantage in the title race has continuously see-sawed from Rosberg to Hamilton and back again.
Just two weeks ago, the margin between the two stood at 29 points, but Rosberg's advantage over his team-mate was slashed dramatically after the German was forced into his first retirement of the season at the previous race in Great Britain.
Hamilton won that race and now lies just four points off the head of the standings and Rosberg knows that should his rival win on Sunday, he will regain the lead in the championship.
"I lost a lot of points and the championship battle is very close, but I'm feeling good," Rosberg, who married his long-time girlfriend Vivian Sibold in the week following the British Grand Prix, said.
"Hockenheim is a crucial race for all of us. It's the home Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz and a second home race for me after Monaco, so I'm really focused on getting a top result this weekend," he added.
Rosberg has never before in his Formula One career had the car to win at the Hockenheimring but the son of 1982 world champion Keke has had some success around this circuit in the junior formulae.
"It's actually the circuit I've won the most races at during my career through all the junior categories, so I know it suits my driving style," Rosberg said. "Of course, I would love to add Formula One to that list sometime soon!"
As he has at every race this year, Rosberg will face a stiff challenge from team-mate Hamilton. The Briton is no slouch around the Hockenheimring either and won here for McLaren on his way to the title in 2008.
Furthermore, following his win at Silverstone, Hamilton seems to have rediscovered the purple of patch of form that took him to four straight race wins earlier this year and is eager to continue in the same vein as he heads into the race that marks the halfway point of the year.
"I feel like I've been on the back foot all year, only briefly leading the championship despite taking the wins I've had, so to have got myself just about level was exactly what I needed," Hamilton, who now has five wins to Rosberg's three, said.
"It's almost a fresh start heading into the second half of the season and it's going to be a really close battle between us."
The most successful driver around Hockenheim among the current crop is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has won here three times including in 2012, the last time Formula One went to the circuit which hosts the German Grand Prix every alternate year in a race-sharing deal with the Nurburgring.
But given Ferrari's current form, the team hasn't won a race since last year's Spanish Grand Prix, the double world champion has written off his chances of winning a race this year.
"If I'm honest with you I'd say no, it's not possible to win this year," Alonso told reporters ahead of the British Grand Prix.
"We will try to do the best we can and if one opportunity arrives we will take it. It's extremely difficult with the performance we are showing."
The most recent German Grand Prix winner is Sebastian Vettel. The reigning world champion won his home race for the first time last year, when it was held at the Nurburgring, to join Alonso and Hamilton as the only three German Grand Prix winners in the field.
He has never won at Hockenheim, the circuit where he first watched Formula One cars in action as a five-year-old in 1992, and his best result here is a third place finish.
With Mercedes expected to dominate again this weekend and Williams, who have taken over from Red Bull as the best of the rest over the last few races, a repeat of that podium is possibly the best the reigning world champion can hope for in front of his home fans.
"Of course, you want to give as much as possible back to the fans," Vettel, who hasn't finished higher than third this season, said.
"But sometimes it's not in your hands. However we will attack at the weekend and give everything."
Football enthusiast and F1 world championship leader Nico Rosberg was yesterday told not to use an image of the World Cup in a helmet design to celebrate Germany's triumph at his home race this weekend. FIFA said it was "obliged to take action against any unauthorised reproduction of its intellectual property in a commercial context."