F1 China 2013: Mercedes looking strong again at Shanghai
12 April 2013
After Nico Rosberg won last year's F1 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, it seemed to herald a bright new dawn for Mercedes in the sport. While the rest of the year didn't quite pan out that way, the team is hoping that a return to the scene of their recent triumph will reinvigorate them and maybe even lead to a repeat success.
"We've had a pretty good day here in Shanghai," said team principal Ross Brawn after Friday's free practice sessions. "There were a number of items that we wanted to evaluate and the programme has gone well.
"The car seems to have a good balance, the feedback from the drivers was positive, and I'm pleased with the race preparation that we have been able to complete," he continued. "We can see where the challenges are for this weekend and tyre life is certainly going to require some attention."
"The tyres are going to be challenging this weekend, particularly the option compound," agreed the team's newest driver Lewis Hamilton. "The car feels reasonable although I'm still finding myself a little uncomfortable so we made a change for the afternoon session which was a really positive step. I'm hoping that we can continue to improve as I spend more time in the car."
Rosberg and Hamilton secured an impressive Mercedes 1-2 in the morning session to claim an early psychological victory over the rest of the field, but they slipped behind the likes of the Ferrari drivers and Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen in the afternoon session despite improving their times.
"Our pace looked good and although I had some traffic on my quick lap, there was enough to give me a good feeling. We'll find out in qualifying where we really are," said Hamilton.
"This was a good and productive day without any problems for us,": contributed a happy and relaxed Toto Wolff, director of motorsports for the team's parent company. "We tested quite a few things during the first session in the morning with positive results.
"As usual we ran both prime and option tyres in the afternoon and did our normal long runs," he explained. "Keeping the option tyre from dropping off early is quite a big challenge. It's early days and we are sure that there is more performance that we can extract from our technical package at this circuit."
"Yes, it was a very productive day," agreed Rosberg. "We've been able to run our program and the car feels really good. I think the day proved that we should be pretty competitive here."
As competitive as last year, when he won the race?
"Of course this track holds a sweet memory for me, as it was where I won my first F1 race, so maybe this gives me a bit of extra boost here as of course I would like to repeat that," he admitted, although at a loss to explain why the Shanghai International Circuit suited him and the Mercedes car so well.
"I don't have any real explanation for that," he said. "Yes, I like the track, and yes, I've done well here in the past, but why this is so? No idea, because it's not so that if you do well once at a track, it means that you will always do well there ... And thank God it is that way because imagine the other way around: if you do bad on a track and it would mean that you do bad there forever!" he laughed.
Still, it was hard for Rosberg not to think back to that moment 12 months ago when he finally became a F1 Grand Prix winner in his own right.
"Ah, my first win - that was a very emotional moment. A very intense situation!" he smiled. "Winning the first race for this Mercedes team - that was awesome. To share the moment with the whole team - that was overwhelming. Winning is just about the limit!"
Clearly, it's something he would like to do again as soon as possible. Maybe even as soon as the next couple of days, if he has his way and Mercedes continues to have a problem-free time on track in China.