15 March 2016
F1 Australian GP: Rosberg ready to scratch race 'itch'
Nico Rosberg says he has never been more prepared to start an F1 campaign, as Mercedes gears up to dominate the category once again.
Nico Rosberg insists that he has never been more ready to start an F1 season as he prepares to deny Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton a third straight world championship title.
While Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel may want to have a say in that particular battle, Rosberg will go into 2016 as many people's choice to be Hamilton's biggest rival, particularly after Mercedes appeared to have something in hand during pre-season testing. The W07 builds on the success of its predecessors, which have claimed 32 wins from the past 38 races, providing a vital piece in Rosberg's puzzle as he works out how to overcome a team-mate that had his number in both 2014 and 2015.
The German won the final three races of last season, but Hamilton insists that he took his eye off the ball once the title was in his pocket, and the reigning champion was keen to stress that he as motivated as ever as the F1 circus counts down to the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne this weekend. Rosberg, meanwhile, counters with the usual upbeat pre-season rhetoric.
"I've had a great winter and done a few things differently for this year," he claimed, "I've never felt more ready to go. This is always a massively exciting time of year. Testing is important, of course, but what every driver really looks forward to is unleashing a new car flat-out for the first time. I'm already itching to get back out there, getting to know our latest Silver Arrow and pushing on, making progress with it. It's going to be a great battle."
Knowing that he needs to curb Hamilton's scoring potential in the early rounds, Rosberg is targeting victories from the opening run of 'flyaway' races, and had the upper hand in terms of testing times over the eight days of preparation in Barcelona, although he will be the first to admit that pre-season results mean little when competition heats up on race weekends. Mercedes, meanwhile, sets itself up as the target to beat for a third straight season, with good pace and reliability giving the German optimism that he can be a factor in the title fight.
"Limited testing gives everyone a big challenge, as you have to be efficient and make more of that time than anyone else," Rosberg reasoned, "It's even tougher when you're the benchmark, as you need to invent while others can invent and copy, but we've done our homework and I think it looks set to be a good year again for us. The level of build quality in the car - how it all fits together and all the little details - is just awesome.
"It's so impressive how the team keeps on pushing, aiming to be better all the time. Of course, we all know that Ferrari are right there with us and maybe some of the others will be up there too, but it's good to have that competition. With the team we have, I believe we can keep them behind."
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