24 March 2014
Rosberg ready to improve as F1 tackles sultry Sepang
Nico Rosberg is chasing better reliability as Mercedes seeks a second F1 win of 2014.
Nico Rosberg may be leading the F1 world championship after taking victory in the opening round in Melbourne, but he will not be satisfied until Mercedes finds better reliability.
Knowing that his title bid could be derailed at any point as F1's new technical era continues to tax the teams, the German is keen to see if the unusual two-week break between Melbourne and Malaysia has allowed the Silver Arrows to work on making the W05 more robust following team-mate Lewis Hamilton's fraught weekend 'down under'.
Having helped set the pre-season pace, the 2008 world champion ground to an ignominious halt on his first lap out of the pits on Friday morning and, having then claimed pole position for the Brackley-based team, lasted only three laps on Sunday afternoon before the gremlins struck.
While Hamilton's exit left the way clear for Rosberg to take a comfortable victory, the German knows that there is still a lot of work to be done before he can expect to be running at the front on a regular basis.
“Australia was the perfect start to my season, but it also highlighted that we're not 100 per cent there yet in terms of reliability,” he noted, “We've had two weeks before this race to identify all the things that we can do better so, hopefully, we can bring both cars home for a good result this weekend and continue our strong start to the year.”
As pre-season testing showed, high temperatures are an issue for the new breed of F1 car, and Rosberg is under no illusion that the Malaysian Grand Prix – and Bahrain which follows a week later – will provide a stiffer test than Melbourne.
“Normally, the weather is seen as the biggest challenge here but this season is different, with reliability the focus of everyone's attention,” he remarked, “Of course, it will still be hot, humid and probably wet at some stage too, so it should be a fascinating weekend.”
Rosberg holds Sepang in high esteem, and will be looking to return to a podium he is already familiar with.
“Sepang holds some great memories for me too as I achieved my first podium for Mercedes here at the start of the 2010 season and, [coming] straight after one of my personal favourites at Albert Park, is another circuit that I really enjoy,” he claimed, “The track layout is great to drive and has a bit of everything thrown in - long straights, fast corners, hairpin turns and good places to overtake. Turns one and 15 are the key corners for this, but it's the high-speed 'S' section between turns 5-6 that really pushes the driver.
“The weather is always a factor, with big chances of a monsoon arriving at least once per day. In the past few years, this has usually happened in either qualifying or the race. The conditions this weekend will also be much hotter than in Australia, so it will be a good opportunity to see how the cars perform in such a different climate.”
For Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, there are further reasons – not least the team's relationship with Petronas – to ensure that the maximum is extracted in terms of the result.
“As one of our home races, we are extremely motivated to get a good result here,” he concluded, “The first race in Australia left us with mixed emotions. Neither of our drivers put a foot wrong all weekend but, unfortunately, only one came away with the result he deserved.
“We know that reliability will be crucial to this long season and we have been working hard to improve the situation for the race in Malaysia. We made a solid start to the year in Melbourne, but we are very aware that not one per cent of effort can be dropped if we are to remain competitive.”
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