Nico Rosberg has audaciously thrown down the gauntlet to his illustrious team-mate Michael Schumacher and vowed to prove once-and-for-all that there is no pre-determined driver hierarchy at Mercedes Grand Prix in F1 2010 - by breaking his duck in the top flight at his 71st attempt and winning the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir.

The build-up to the forthcoming campaign has been plagued by suggestions that despite having only agreed terms shortly before Christmas, Schumacher already has his feet well-and-truly ensconced under the table at Brackley, thanks primarily to his famously close relationship with team principal Ross Brawn from their time spent together at firstly Benetton and then Ferrari, during which period the Englishman helped to expertly engineer the German to all seven of his record-breaking drivers' world championship crowns.

To hand further ammunition to the cynics, Schumacher successfully requested to be allowed to swap car numbers with Rosberg so that he can run the No.3 in 2010 - reasoning that he 'prefers to have odd race numbers', with which he has clinched each and every one of his titles to-date - thereby lumbering his younger compatriot with the unloved No.4, which over the last decade has triumphed in just seven grands prix and has never claimed the ultimate laurels. The status quo say the sceptics, has already been firmly established.

However, some - like Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx [see separate story - click here] - have opined that Rosberg might not be quite the pushover that many are expecting. The man himself - boosted by what is inarguably his big break four years on from making his grand prix debut with Williams - clearly agrees.

"I'm alongside the reference in F1," the fearless 24-year-old told French sports newspaper L'?quipe. "You couldn't ask for any more, and I'm convinced that we will both have the same equipment.

"All the attention will be on him, which will allow me the time to focus on my own work - and when I win in Bahrain, people won't worry any more about what number is on the car, but rather about which driver is inside it!"