Nico Rosberg insists he can beat Lewis Hamilton in single-lap combat at Monaco
German plays down significance of 4-1 defeat to Hamilton in qualy
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 21/05/14 3:50pm
Nico Rosberg has denied being at a disadvantage in qualifying to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton as the German plots a return to the summit of the Drivers' World Championship.
Armed with exclusive access to the fastest car in the field, Hamilton and Rosberg remain locked in close combat at the top of the table, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, their nearest challenger in the standings, already over two race victories adrift of the runaway Mercedes duo.
Although Hamilton will start this weekend's Monaco GP the pre-event favourite after winning the last four races, Rosberg has seemingly boasted superior race-day pace twice during that run - in Bahrain and two weeks ago in Spain - only to lose out to the sister Mercedes' advantageous track position.
The Englishman's 4-1 lead over Rosberg in qualifying has been widely identified as the critical difference in their respective positions in the championship and Saturday's result is, according to recent precedent, set to have a massive bearing on the outcome of Sunday's race: only once in the last decade has a driver who hasn't started on pole position in Monaco gone on to take the chequered flag.
But Rosberg, adamant that he has the pace to match Hamilton over a single lap, insists he has nothing to fear.
"Three of those qualifyings were in the wet and so in the dry it is 1-1. It is supposed to be dry on Saturday, and I'm confident I can make it happen, so I won't be changing my approach or anything," he said during Wednesday's press conference.
"It's been a tough battle up until now and I expect that to continue. It's been very close and I just need a tiny bit to turn it around."
Following his victory in Spain, the fourth in a row he has won ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton now leads the championship by three points.
"I'd prefer to be ahead than behind, but I'm not focussed on that," countered Rosberg. "It's very close and there is a long way to go, so I'm just focussed on that. I have a fantastic car and I expect it to be very, very quick this weekend. They [the rest] might be closer to us this weekend and we need to wait and see if we are still the fastest - the chances are that we will be."
If Mercedes are to be beaten in a straight fight anywhere this year, chances are that it will be this weekend. The unique configuration of the ultra-tight street circuit at Monte Carlo is likely to negate their power advantage while the ubiquitous barriers will form a permanent threat to the slightest mistake. In last year's race, Rosberg won from pole position after a go-slow start to the race as he sought to protect his tyres, the W04's Achilles heel. Fortunately for all concerned, a repeat is not on the cards 12 months later.
"Last year, our car was really, really bad on tyres before Monaco but this year the tyres are more durable and we have more control over the tyres as a team," reflected Rosberg. "But it should be a faster race if I am at the front."
In Monaco, there's no other place to be.