For Nico Ros­berg, Well Be­gun is Not Half Done

The Economic Times - - Sports - Ab­hishek Takle

Nico Ros­berg is rev­el­ling in the strong­est start to a sea­son he has ever had but re­fus­ing to get car­ried away by thoughts of a maiden F1 ti­tle, de­spite romp­ing un­chal­lenged to vic­tory in Sun­day’s Bahrain Grand Prix, his sec­ond win of the sea­son in as many races. He had won the Aus­tralian GP - the first race of the 2016.

Un­like last year when it was too late by the time Ros­berg found his feet with team-mate Lewis Hamil­ton al­ready hav­ing wrapped up the ti­tle, his wins in 2016, place him firmly in con­trol of the cham­pi­onship. His cush­ion over team-mate and ri­val Hamil­ton, is now 17 points. With the Ger­man in the form of his life, re­porters play­fully tried to get Ros­berg to con­cede that his thoughts must surely now dwell on win­ning the cham­pi­onship. But he was hav­ing none of it.

“I am just en­joy­ing it at the mo­ment,” Ros­berg told re­porters, fol­low­ing the race in Bahrain. "I am go­ing step by step, race by race and want­ing to make the most of it and win more races.”

Ros­berg’s wari­ness of get­ting car­ried away prob­a­bly stems from know­ing how fast even the most size­able ad­van­tage can un­ravel, es­pe­cially with 19 races still to run in the long­est-ever F1 sea­son. The 30-year-old led the cham- pi­o­nship stand­ings for most of the 2014 sea­son, his cush­ion over Hamil­ton at one stage, helped by a run of bad luck for the Bri­ton, stretch­ing to as much as 29 points. Yet, Hamil­ton over­hauled that ad­van­tage with a run of six wins from the fi­nal seven races and snatched the ti­tle from Nico’s grasp.

Hamil­ton last stood on the top step of the podium at the US GP in Oc­to­ber last year, the race at which he clinched his third ti­tle. But that tri­umph seems to have given the Bri­ton, whose form in the past has been prone to f luc­tu­at­ing un­der pres­sure, the abil­ity to deal with the situation in an as­sured man­ner and swing with the punches only to de­liver a knock­out blow at the very end, much like one of his idols. “Not that this is the same, but Muham­mad Ali with that Rum­ble in the Jun­gle, he got the dude to be­lieve that he was win­ning and he didn’t. So any­thing can hap­pen,” the Bri­ton said. “This is a psy­cho­log­i­cal game for sure. But I guess with age and ex­pe­ri­ence I’m in the most solid place that I’ve ever been. There’s very lit­tle if not any­thing that can pen­e­trate that.”

Look­ing at the head­lines the nar­ra­tive may ap­pear to be un­changed from the past two sea­sons af­ter much op­ti­mism that Fer­rari could end Mercedes’ dom­i­nance. Af­ter all, the third prac­tice for the Bahrain GP was the first time this year that a driver other than from Mercedes had topped a ses­sion, with Se­bas­tian Vet­tel head­ing the timesheets for Fer­rari. Mercedes also started Sun­day’s race from their eighth­straight front-row lock­out while, sim­i­larly, Ros­berg’s win marked the Sil­ver Ar­rows’ eighth suc­ces­sive tri­umph.

But while Mercedes do have the edge in terms of raw pace, Fer­rari may be more of a threat than they have seemed so far this sea­son. Vet­tel was on course for vic­tory in Aus­tralian GP but a bun­gled tyre gam­ble dropped him out of con­tention. He didn’t even start the race in Bahrain as his Fer­rari ground to a halt, plumes of thick white smoke bil­low­ing from its en­gine, on the for­ma­tion lap it­self. Kimi Raikko­nen has tra­di­tion­ally been strong in Bahrain and scored his best fin­ish of the sea­son with sec­ond at the track last year. But the Finn made a tardy start and was stuck be­hind the slower Wil­liams cars of Felipe Massa and Valt­teri Bot­tas and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s Red Bull in the early stages, with­out which he might have chal­lenged for the win. Sun­day’s race in Bahrain may not have been as hard-fought at the front as the sea­son- opener in Aus­tralia. How­ever, it cer­tainly wasn’t short on drama, some ma­jor up­sets and plenty of wheel-to-wheel rac­ing lower down the field.

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