Lewis Hamilton hopes to beat Nico Rosberg at Malaysian Grand Prix
Briton, who did not finish in Australia, hopes to get one over his Mercedes teammate in Malaysia
Associated Press in Sepang
Nico Rosberg may be the Formula One championship leader, but Lewis Hamilton remains the bookmakers' favourite to win the title, and the Briton said on Thursday he was relishing the chance to get the better of his Mercedes teammate at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Rosberg won the season opener in Australia, while Hamilton retired early with engine trouble, putting an early 25-point gap between the pair who are expected to fight for the drivers' championship.
"There is a huge deficit," Hamilton said. "When you lose 25 points, that's a serious deficit to make up.
"But from one race, one DNF [did not finish] you can gain a large amount. I quite like to chase, so maybe it's done me a favour."
Rosberg, who this weekend is aiming to match his father Keke with a fifth F1 victory, readily acknowledged that Mercedes will again be the team to beat at the Sepang circuit on Sunday.
"The chances are we will be at the front," Rosberg said. "For sure, it will be possible to get another great result here.
"We look to be the quickest … but we need to be careful. The opposition is not asleep, they're pushing like crazy."
Chief among that opposition are Red Bull, who are in the curious situation of being buoyed by their performance in Melbourne despite leaving Albert Park with zero points.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel retired early with engine trouble, while new teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished second, but was later disqualified as the team were found to have exceeded fuel-flow limits. They have appealed against the ruling.
The performance of the Red Bull car surprised the team, who were bracing for worse after a preseason riddled with technical problems.
Vettel said there was something that could be built upon in Sepang, where Red Bull had claimed three of the past four wins and pole positions.
But the German knew he might need some assistance from the elements. "Anything is possible here," Vettel said. "I wouldn't mind some rain because Daniel showed the car was quick in the wet in Melbourne."
The Malaysian Grand Prix looms as a test of engine reliability. Although the naysayers in Australia were proven wrong about the unreliability of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines, with two-thirds of the field finishing, the intense heat and humidity at Sepang, coupled with the two long straights, will put much more stress on the powertrains.
"Reliability is going to be put to the real test this weekend for everyone because it's so hot and the engine will be put to the absolute test," Hamilton said.
Jenson Button, whose McLaren team are the surprise early leaders in the constructors' championship after being promoted to second and third places in Melbourne following Ricciardo's expulsion, agreed that reliability will be at a premium.
"It's super hot and a tough circuit on the cars," 34-year-old Button said. "You would say we are fighting for a podium really, and you never know what will happen with Mercedes and their reliability."
Meanwhile, it emerged on Thursday that a minute's silence will be held before this weekend's race as a mark of respect for victims of the MH370 plane disaster.
Teams and spectators will fall quiet just before the start to honour the 239 people who were on board the Malaysia Airlines jet when it disappeared on March 8.