SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) — Having beaten his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton in three of the past four races, Nico Rosberg is confident he has found the missing ingredient required to win the Formula One title this year: more aggression.
Rosberg, last year’s F1 runner-up to Hamilton in a close title race, now sits just 10 points behind his Mercedes rival after a convincing win at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, where he showed his steely streak to overtake Hamilton at the first corner.
“I think I have found what I needed to find last year in terms of in the races,” Rosberg said after his 11th career win. “That’s what is really working out for me this year.”
Hamilton has won five races to Rosberg’s three so far. But Rosberg will have gained huge confidence from wins in Spain, Monaco — where he was helped by surprising team orders to call Hamilton in for a pit stop — and his latest success at the Red Bull Ring.
Rosberg heads to the British GP in two weeks’ time in buoyant mood with the momentum seemingly swinging back his way.
“Now I’m really looking forward to Silverstone, where I have good memories with the pole last year and the win in 2013,” the 29-year-old German said.
Hamilton has concerns after being well beaten, especially seeing as he started from pole for the seventh time in eight races. Furthermore, he also carelessly picked up a five-second penalty after swerving off course when coming out of the pits after his tire change.
“It was not the best way to start the race but it is something we will work on to improve on my side of the garage,” the Briton said, reflecting on his poor start. “When I came off the throttle, the revs stayed up. So, when I dropped the clutch, I had too much wheel spin and lost ground.”
Hamilton speaking about elements being out of his control will only boost Rosberg’s confidence, as they reveal the frustration that Hamilton must be feeling.
He stood glumly on the podium after the race, and gave a curt response in the post-race news conference when asked to explain his five-second time penalty for swaying too far left when exiting the pit lane and going over a designated white line.
“I have no idea what happened,” he said.
Mercedes will not be concerned who wins the races, however. The Silver Arrows drivers have clinched 23 of the past 27 races this season and last. Only Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has beaten them this season, but that was in the second race in Malaysia and the four-time champion is drifting away, 49 points behind Hamilton.
In a further boost to Mercedes, Williams seems to be close to matching Ferrari for race pace, with Felipe Massa taking third place ahead of Vettel in Austria.
“It’s even more special because we have three Mercedes engines in the top three,” Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said gleefully.
Last year, the F1 title went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi — but Rosberg was only in contention then because double points were on offer in the final race. Also, during the season, Hamilton lost a potential 75 points when retiring from three races, while Rosberg retired from two.
That unpopular double points rule has been scrapped, and Rosberg will want to be in a stronger position next time Abu Dhabi comes around on Nov. 29.
“They are both under pressure because they keep pushing each other so much,” Wolff said. “It is going to go down to the wire.”
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