Barcelona polesitter Nico Rosberg expects Mercedes to fare better from top spot in Spain than it did from a similar position last time out in Bahrain.
The German claimed Mercedes' third straight pole – and the third in five races this season – with a blistering lap in the final phase of qualifying, and will line-up alongside team-mate Lewis Hamilton – who had paced Q1 and Q2 - at the start of the race in Catalunya. However, whilst memories of both cars fading in the Bahrain race remain raw, Rosberg insists that he expects better from Barcelona.
“In Bahrain, the temperatures and the circuit and everything exposed our small weaknesses in a very extreme way,” he explained, “So, firstly, we're in a different track and everything so, naturally, it's going to be a bit better; and, then, we also really tried to understand what went wrong in Bahrain, and we do understand better what's going on there and have improved things.
“But still, for sure, I'm not going to sit here and say I'm very confident that I can go for the win tomorrow. No, the target needs to be a little bit less than that I think – maybe a podium – but there are so many unknowns for tomorrow because the situation is completely different, again, with graining. We just have to see how it goes.”
With three weeks between races, and Barcelona traditionally being the venue that sees the first major upgrade of the season, Rosberg confirmed that there had been a lot of work going on back at Mercedes' Brackley base, even if the team didn't bring as many new bits as some of its rivals.
“Yeah, for sure, everyone has been working really, really hard back in the factory to understand even better our problems,” he noted, “It's really an ongoing process, understanding how to get the most out of these tyres. It's really, really complex, for us drivers, for the engineers, for everybody, and we're just a bit behind at the moment.
“I'm sure we've caught up now, but then you come here and there are different issues again because here it's more the graining of the tyres that's the main issue. So, then again, we were trying to catch up and make the most of that situation. I think we've improved things and, this morning, things were looking at little bit better, so I'm a little bit more confident for [Sunday], but still the race is going to be a whole different thing. With the tyres, it's a big challenge.”
The Spanish Grand Prix has been won from pole position 17 times in 22 races, and Rosberg admits that it is an obvious advantage, but that nagging doubt about Mercedes' race pace continued to make him pessimistic about adding to his sole F1 victory.
“After Bahrain, [we were] thinking about the race a lot, so we're surprised that we could be that quick today,” he conceded, “But it all went perfectly in qualifying and I had a really good lap in the end. I'm really, really happy with that. It's always a good motivation boost and everything, especially for the team.
“But, of course, I have to be a bit cautious because of what happened in Bahrain. For sure, it's a benefit to start first, definitely. Clean air, hopefully, after the start, starting on the better side of the grid, that's all great, but the race is very long. To win, it's not good enough to start from pole, you need to have the fastest race car too. As we've seen, there are so many differences in speed through the race and strategy and everything. If you don't have a very, very quick car, there's no chance.”