Rosberg must prove he can dethrone Hamilton

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Rosberg in pole position

Eight points clear with six races remaining is hardly job done for Nico Rosberg but his victory on the streets of Singapore is significant because it capped a weekend when he basically blew his team-mate Lewis Hamilton away and that will give him a vital confidence boost at a critical time of the season.

This was his third consecutive win since the summer break, his first victory in Singapore and it swings the championship pendulum in his direction as we enter the business end of the season.

The German has led the championship before and has previously been in a position to win the title, particularly in 2014 when it went down the final race of the season, but has always fallen short, ending up playing bridesmaid to Hamilton, so although he is unlikely to have suffered any kind of inferiority complex the perception was that perhaps he didn’t have what it takes to beat his team-mate when it really mattered.

But the dominant manner in which he won Sunday’s race, holding off the charging Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, shows that after 200 grands prix he has the ability, the experience and the determination to win his first world crown this season.

But has he got the maturity to take it all the way without being dazzled in the full glare of the spotlight with Hamilton breathing down his neck?

Rosberg has always had the pedigree to become a great, being the son of former world champion Keke Rosberg, although it was never nailed on that he would become a Formula One driver.

He considered becoming a professional tennis player before his destiny proved to be motorsport and he has enjoyed relative success since moving to Mercedes in 2010 with Michael Schumacher as his team-mate.

He constantly outperformed Schumacher, who was in the twilight of his career, before the German legend retired in 2013 and his new team-mate was a different story – Lewis Hamilton who moved from McLaren and he soon found himself being outperformed.

He might have wrestled the championship lead from the defending champion in Singapore Sunday but he can expect the Brit to fight back ferociously and the fact that Red Bull appear to have finally got their act back together will add to what should be a fascinating final six grands prix, although it still looks like two-horse race with Ricciardo 86 points behind Hamilton.

Ferrari, tipped to be stronger this season and finally challenge Mercedes have again failed to deliver, although both Sebastian Vettel, who finished fifth after starting last, and Kimi Raikkonen, who did give Hamilton a run for his money, drove well Sunday.

But, barring a miraculous recovery, their season will go down as another disappointing failure.

So although Red Bull and Ferrari might run a little bit of interference in the remaining races in Malaysia, Japan, America, Mexico, Brazil and finally Abu Dhabi it looks like another shootout between Rosberg and Hamilton who I still believe is the superior driver.

And it is precisely because I think Hamilton is better than the German that Rosberg must take full advantage of the initiative he now has and prove me and others wrong.

As we have seen, Hamilton is not unbeatable; he is prone to mood swings and openly hates losing, as all champions do, but he is an exceptional driver and I still think he will win the title.

It is going to be close and let’s hope it goes to the wire and the final race in Abu Dhabi when we will find out if Rosberg, a little bit like Felipe Massa at Ferrari, is a champion or just another excellent driver who never quite managed to emerge from the shadow of a superior team-mate.

His reputation is on the line. Game on, Nico!

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Nico labels Singapore GP win 'awesome'

F1i 18/09/2016
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That awesome feeling: Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg said that winning the Singapore Grand Prix for the first time this weekend was “awesome”, but he downplayed its significance in terms of what it meant for his hopes of clinching the 2016 world championship.

“Winning the Singapore Grand Prix today is awesome. I’m really happy about that. The whole weekend went perfectly. So today it’s a big deal,” he said.

“[I had a] great start, and I had a good car in the race. Of course Daniel tried to pull one up on me with the pit stop at the end there, and we knew it was going to be tight at the end there but it worked out. Really really happy.”

The early stages of the race were dominated by the need to manage the brakes on the Mercedes, with the pit wall telling Rosberg the situation was “serious”.

“The whole car was on the edge, it always is here in Singapore so it’s all the more satisfying to win a race like that,” Rosberg said.

“The brakes were just on the limit but that’s expected and it worked out fine. I guess it’s right on the edge but it was a lot easier to manage for the whole race.”

Rosberg was never able to really pull away to a safe distance at the front, and when Red Bull opted to bring Daniel Ricciardo for a late stop and a fresh set of tyres, suddenly Rosberg’s lead looked vulnerable.

Initially the team planned to respond to the Red Bull move, but they ended up thwarted and missing the opportunity.

“I didn’t come in because I had traffic so I was very slow on that lap and he would have beaten me, ” explained Rosberg.

“Hats off to Red Bull for such an awesome attempt which they did to try and get us. Caught us a bit there in a difficult moment.

“Just after at the pit stop, the team said that he would be with me at the end of the race which was the case, so for sure I had to be on it in that last stint and get everything right – nail all those laps, and it really worked out with the management all the way to the end. The tyre lasted just right.

“I knew it was going to be tight at the end so I just pushed as much as I could and try and get as much laptime as I could and it worked out, so I’m happy with that.”

The win puts Rosberg back in the lead of the championship, but he insisted today wasn’t about the title battle.

“I’m not focussed on points, I’m just happy with the win today,” he said. “I’m not thinking about that, just concentrating on my race weekend, just going for the race win and that’s what I’ve been doing and did also this week. Really excited about that, and celebrating that now.”

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Rosberg wins in Singapore

Sport360 staff 18/09/2016
Back on top: Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg paid tribute to his Mercedes engineers Sunday after the team put their Singapore nightmare of 12 months ago behind them.

Rosberg took his third grand prix win in a row in his 200th start to snatch back the world championship lead by eight points from teammate Lewis Hamilton, who finished third.

It was a far cry from just 12 months ago when Hamilton retired and Rosberg trailed in fourth, hopelessly and inexplicably off the pace on Marina Bay street circuit.

"It really shows that not only do we have the best car but we also have the most competent group of engineers to extract the potential from the best car," Rosberg told reporters after the Singapore Grand Prix. The 23-corner city-centre track presents a completely different challenge to the previous race in Monza, a ultra high-speed circuit with few corners that places a premium on aerodynamic efficiency and power. "Every weekend they have to change the car, adapting to new circuits and understanding them," Rosberg said. Red Bull were seen by many in the paddock as pre-race favourites with their emphasis on mechanical grip giving an advantage over the Mercedes who rely on straight line speed and superior horsepower not suited to Singapore. Rosberg said the fact that he could hold off the fast-charging Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the race to win by 0.4 seconds was a remarkable achievement after being almost a second per lap off the pace a year ago. "We were absolutely nowhere here behind Red Bull and Ferrari and we came back this year and beat them on their strongest track. So that's really awesome to see that." Rosberg leads the drivers' championship on 273 points from Hamilton on 265 after a rollercoaster season where the teammates have both held substantial leads, only to be pegged back by the other. Ricciardo is third on 179 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel on 153. Vettel was awarded the 'driver of the day' trophy after starting last on the grid and finishing fifth on one of the most difficult overtaking tracks on the calendar.  

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