REMATCH OF A REMATCH
Whatever Nico Rosberg’s private
expectations had been going into the
2015 season, it’s unlikely that watching
teammate Lewis Hamilton ride off with
another championship was among them.
Having led the Formula 1 World
Championship points for a large part of
2014, the German Mercedes driver might
have felt the only things standing between
him and the crown were a few refinements.
And, given the absence of any
consistent threat from elsewhere, nobody
was better placed to lay siege on
Hamilton’s throne. Yet by the time the
European leg of the championship had
been completed, the German had only
managed to finish ahead of Hamilton
three times. Rosberg found a bit of hustle
after that, and ended the season with a
six-race streak of pole positions that he
converted into three wins and two second
places. (A throttle problem led to an early
retirement in Russia.) But by then, the
championship was basically over.
Hamilton vs. Rosberg is slowly brewing
into a proper F1 rivalry: perennial battles,
ambiguity over the fluid status of their
friendship. All good stuff. The one thing
it’s missing is a real response from
Rosberg on the track.
In 2016, he might just get another
chance. The early hints from testing are
that Mercedes will once again go into the
new season as the team to beat. Hamilton
Christian Horner has already warned that
2016 will be a transitional year – a “year of
two halves” while Red Bull Racing waits for
a revitalized Renault power unit (which is
now rebadged as TAG Heuer on RBR’s cars)
to cajole its competitiveness into something
worthy of a team that has won the
constructors’ title four times since 2010.
Red Bull’s on/off negotiations with
Renault provided one of the winter’s
messier plotlines, but Horner is convinced
that the French firm’s return as a full
manufacturer will pay dividends.
completed a problem-free full race
simulation run on the first day of the
second Barcelona test, and on the same
day, Rosberg set a time on the soft
compound Pirellis that was 1.5sec quicker
than anyone else had managed on the
same rubber up to that point.
If that translates into race form, then
the Mercedes pairing will have a few races
to lay the foundation of a title campaign
before any other teams even have a
chance to close the gap. Once again,
Rosberg could have a clear shot at
Hamilton without having to worry about
any Ferraris getting in the way. Question is,
can he rise to the occasion early enough
and consistently enough for it to matter?
RBR will score lots of early style
points, but what about the ones
that count for the championship?
(TOP) Hamilton is
Rosberg got on a
roll at the end of
last year, but by
then the damage
was already done.
Early signs point to 2016 being Hamilton vs. Rosberg, round three. So how can Nico peg one back on the World Champion?
Red Bull is targeting big things again – just not until later in the year.
22 SPRING 2016
FORMULA 1 2016
In the meantime, he’s admitted that
Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, which
will use year-old Ferrari units, might
actually be faster than Red Bull during
the opening grands prix.
“But I think that will, hopefully, change
throughout the course of the season,”
Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, who
scored three podiums between them in ’ 15,
will be hoping so, too. Until then, they’ll at
least have time to enjoy RBR’s attractively
toned-down, matt paint scheme.
FIA FORMULA 1