x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Formula One: All roads now lead to home for confident Nico Rosberg

German aims for a treble at Nurburgring and Vettel looks for first domestic victory.

Mercedes GP’s German driver Nico Rosberg is mobbed by members of the media yesterday.
Mercedes GP’s German driver Nico Rosberg is mobbed by members of the media yesterday.

Nico Rosberg, a lifelong resident of Monte Carlo and competing for an England-based racing marque, has already won in Monaco and Silverstone this season.

Now, starting today, the German-born 28 year old is looking to complete a memorable triple crown with victory at the famous Nurburgring circuit near Frankfurt.

It is only five days since Rosberg benefited from his rivals' misfortune to race to victory at the British Grand Prix.

A succession of dramatic, high-speed tyre failures last Sunday led to urgent calls for change.

Pirelli, the official tyre supplier, reacted quickly and has made available a more-durable compound less likely to suffer blow-outs.

Yet, while the introduction of the new interim tyre should ensure drivers will no longer run the risk of having their race compromised by exploding rubber, it could also mean the performance gap between teams could grow larger - which is positive news for Rosberg and Mercedes-GP teammate, Lewis Hamilton.

Recent races have shown that a more conservative tyre favours the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull Racing, while marques such as Ferrari, Lotus and Force India have seen their performance negatively impacted. Resultantly, Rosberg is arriving at his third home grand prix of the season in confident mood.

"It's a really nice time in my career at the moment," said Rosberg, who will make his 137th race start on Sunday. "It's new. I've never had a car as quick as it is now, going to every race knowing that I go out there in qualifying and can fight for a position right at the front.

"And then also in the race, the car is getting better and better so the chances are higher to the extent that even on Sunday I can keep my qualifying position.

"It's a really, really nice feeling. Very motivating also."

Rosberg trails compatriot Sebastian Vettel, the three-time world champion, by 50 points after eight races, and such has been the two drivers' level of performance in recent weeks that some are billing this weekend's event as a head-to-head duel.

"I just want to annoy Sebastian and Red Bull a little bit race by race, by being ahead of them and that's the most important thing," Rosberg, who is refusing to consider a title challenge yet, said.

"We're really focusing on getting our momentum, keeping it going as we have at the moment and just concentrating one race to the next. Trying to get the most out of them, just as we have done now in the last couple of races. And then we'll see in a few races time."

Vettel has three wins so far this season and was leading at Silverstone before suffering a gearbox failure with 10 laps to go.

However, as he hunts a 30th career win, he does so knowing he has never won in front of his home supporters.

In fact, as one reporter pointed out to him yesterday, he has never won a race in the month of July.

"I think it is much more important what we have achieved the past four years, and the past three years in particular," he said.

"We've had good races in the past here; always close, but not good enough to win yet.

"Obviously, it's great to come back and especially the last couple of years with more and more people supporting the team, supporting myself. It's great and I really get a feeling of a true home grand prix."

Rosberg's teammate Hamilton suffered heartbreak at his own home race last weekend when the pole-sitter's tyre exploded after just seven laps.

Without a win yet this season, the 2008 world champion is determined to get off the mark soon and appreciates there are few better places to do so than at the de facto home race of Mercedes, the German manufacturers.

"The team have done a fantastic job with the car and we were genuinely competitive at my home race," Hamilton, who won at the Nurburgring the last time F1 raced here in 2011, said. "I'd really like to open my winning account with Mercedes this weekend, and the way the car is now going I have a very good chance of that. "I'll be pushing hard all the way."

Meanwhile, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association has threatened to boycott of this weekend’s German Grand Prix should there be a repeat of the tyre blowouts witnessed at Silverstone.

For this weekend, the belt on the rear tyres is now made of Kevlar – a high-strength synthetic fibre – as opposed to steel.

But following a meeting of the association, chaired by Pedro de la Rosa and with Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button as directors – they released the following statement: “The drivers have decided if similar problems should manifest themselves, we shall immediately withdraw from the event.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae