SHANGHAI, April 18 – Nico Rosberg is refusing to get ahead of himself after extending his perfect start to the 2016 Formula One season with a crushing victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.
The German became the 10th driver to win the first three races of the season in Shanghai the previous nine all going on to win the world title.
Rosberg quickly dismissed that statistic, however, pointing at the brooding figure of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, who has form when it comes to wiping out chunky leads.
“They didn’t have Lewis Hamilton as a team-mate, those other nine,” Rosberg told reporters after pushing his championship lead over Hamilton to 36 points.
“It’s a handful of races in the longest season ever, another 18 to go. To win the first three is awesome, but I never expected it to go that way,” he added with the next race in Russia on May 1 already looking pivotal.
“It’s great to win, it’s what I race for. But Lewis Hamilton is my team-mate, double world champion, hard to beat in the previous two, three years. Lewis will never give up.”
Rosberg also became only the fourth driver to win six consecutive races joining Sebastian Vettel (nine), Alberto Ascari (seven) and Michael Schumacher (six) after winning the last three of 2015.
Hamilton, yet to win since clinching his third world title in Texas last October, was licking his wounds after he battled back to finish seventh from last on the grid after a mechanical failure in qualifying.
– Stark reminder –
The Briton erased a 29-point Rosberg lead to win the 2014 championship, a stark reminder to Rosberg of the danger lurking on the other side of the Mercedes garage.
“It doesn’t feel any nicer than it did back then,” said Hamilton. “There are lots of different emotions when you see your season go the wrong way. But it’s part of the journey and it makes us stronger.”
As Rosberg celebrated, Ferrari were hopping mad after their race was compromised by a clash between Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat at turn one.
Vettel, who slammed the Russian as “a madman” and “suicidal” in a withering attack, fought back brilliantly from 15th to take second, while Raikkonen took fifth despite damaging his front wing and sustaining a puncture in the mayhem.
But after struggling with engine trouble in Australia and Bahrain, it was scant consolation for Ferrari after a weekend when the Italian team had shown real pace.
“Ferrari really haven’t shown what they can do at all yet,” warned Rosberg. “We really think that they’re very, very close to us so we have to keep our heads down and keep pushing.”
Red Bull made strides with Kvyat finishing on the podium and Daniel Ricciardo taking fourth after suffering an early puncture when leading, suggesting they too could be a threat at the next stop in Sochi.
“I definitely feel I would’ve been spraying champagne,” said the Australian Ricciardo, who qualified second on the grid. “But part of me is smiling inside because I know that can happen more times this year.”