Nico Rosberg says he is on a level playing field with team-mate Michael Schumacher going into the 2012 F1 season as he seeks to outscore the former title winner for a third straight year.
Rosberg has outperformed the seven-time champion in both seasons since he came out of retirement to join Mercedes, although the gap between the two came down noticeably last year as Schumacher came to terms more with the changes in the sport since his final season with Ferrari.
However, in an interview with Car
Rosberg said he knew the reasons why Schumacher has been able to bring the gap down and said the relationship between the pair was 'easy-going' ahead of the 2012 season.
"He closed the gap to me in the championship standings compared with 2010, but a lot of that reduction was down to the tyres and the DRS, which made overtaking more possible," he said. "Qualifying lost a lot of its importance in 2011 and that was the main explanation. But Michael also raised his game; he upped his performance.
"At the start of last year I had a lot of respect towards him, but it's settled down now. We're on an even playing field and it's much more easygoing. I respect his dedication to the sport and his approach. That's interesting to see."
Rosberg will hope that the new Mercedes W03 is the car that will allow him to finally secure a maiden F1 victory after more than 100 starts, although he said he wasn't concerned by the fact he has yet to take to the top step of the podium.
"I get a lot of pleasure from the races in which I know I've done a good job, like finishing sixth in Abu Dhabi," he said. "I know my time will come, when I have the right car. I really look forward to winning because I know it will be an amazing experience, but it's not like I'm suffering in any way at the moment."