Rosberg takes five
Rosberg’s winning streak continues as he overpowers his team-mate for a fifth consecutive victory
When a driver admits that he and his team have chosen “the safest strategy” for a grand prix, you know they haven’t exactly had their toughestever day at the office.
So it was for Nico Rosberg, comfortable, composed winner of the 2016 Bahrain GP, now a back-to-back victor this year and author of a fiverace winning streak stretching back to Mexico last November. Can this be the foundation for his first title? Certainly he couldn’t have hoped for more from the first two grands prix of the season.
But questions still remain as to the fundaments of Rosberg’s victories. At the end of last year, as he rattled in a MexicoBrazil-abu Dhabi hat-trick, we wondered if his achievements had been the result of superior performance or whether they were more the consequence of a post-title lifting off the gas by the hitherto dominant Lewis Hamilton. This year it must be noted that both of Rosberg’s wins, immaculate though they have been, have followed start-line problems for Hamilton.
The charitable will say that the innately analytical Rosberg will have understood the potential for mishap introduced by the newfor-2016 single-clutch start procedure, and prepared himself to be best practised for the change. Those who believe Hamilton more gifted will simply think: “Wait till Lewis nails it.”
These two remain terrifically closely matched, with the slightest advantage in any area of performance, be it mechanical, psychological, emotional, enough to tip the balance in either man’s favour. For the past two seasons that edge has favoured Hamilton, particularly so in 2015.
This year… well, let’s just say that when the 21 races are done, maybe we’ll look back and realise that the tiny start-procedure advantage Rosberg found over the 2015-16 off-season had been sufficient to see him to a world title. Maybe. Any advantage either finds will be telling, but almost certainly transitory.
In Bahrain qualifying they were separated by just 0.077s, to share the front row (Lewis on pole, his 51st). That gap equated to just one car-length around the BIC’S 3.36 miles and both Nico’s and Lewis’s best times were good enough to beat the qualifying record set by here by Fernando Alonso in 2005. So with an engine barely half the size of Alonso’s 3.0-litre Mercedes V10, and using only half as much fuel, a significant mark had been passed. That’s progress.
Mercedes retain the edge over their closest rivals, Ferrari, and it was best displayed by a second consecutive recovery drive from Hamilton. Into T1 after the start, he was skewered by a rocket-launching Valtteri Bottas, whose Williams nerfed the right sidepod of Hamilton’s Mercedes and pitched it into a halfspin. Bottas lost his left front-wing endplate