• Thu
  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 11:32pm
SportOther Sport
MOTOR RACING

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg in desert duel

Sahkir circuit will be first true test of Mercedes' dominance as victory has eluded teammates, but Briton and German hope to crack the hoodoo

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 9:48pm

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg put Mercedes' early season dominance to its first true test on Sunday at the floodlit Bahrain Grand Prix on a track where both drivers have always struggled.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, swept to victory from pole in Malaysia last week ahead of Rosberg who clinched the opener in Australia.

But despite their lofty positions in the 2014 title race, the dust and heat of the troubled Middle East state have often choked the pair's ambitions.

Until last week, it was the same story for me with Malaysia, so fingers crossed this can be the year of breaking those cycles
Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton's best finish at the Sakhir track was second in 2007 while Rosberg has never made the podium with his storming drive to pole in 2013 yielding a poor ninth place finish.

His best result remains a humble fifth.

"I've finished on the podium there a couple of times but, for one reason or another, I've never managed to get the win," said Hamilton, whose victory at Sepang followed a retirement in Australia.

"Until last week, it was the same story for me with Malaysia, so fingers crossed this can be the year of breaking those cycles.

"We know it's going to be tough to maintain our form, particularly at a circuit where every team has had so much running time in testing over the winter, but I'll be pushing hard to keep those results coming."

We may be leading both championships at the moment, but our rivals are breathing down our necks
Nico Rosberg

Rosberg is the championship leader after two events and enjoys an 18-point cushion over Hamilton. But he, too, is aware that Bahrain, which rarely features standout duels, has not been a happy hunting ground.

"The first two races have been a great start to my season and I'm already looking forward to being back in the car and carrying on that momentum in Bahrain," said the German.

"It's a great track and I really enjoy driving it. I've never had much luck on race weekends here, but it's definitely the one I'm best prepared for this year.

"We may be leading both championships at the moment, but our rivals are breathing down our necks, so we need to stay focused and keep doing our job calmly and professionally."

While Mercedes have shone in the early weeks of the season, it's been a tale of relative woe for world champions Red Bull.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel failed to finish the season-opener in Australia before grabbing third place in Malaysia.

He sits seventh in the title race while teammate Daniel Ricciardo has yet to get on the scoreboard as Red Bull wilt in the shadow of Mercedes.

Vettel has looked as unsettled as his car in 2014 as he lies 28 points off Rosberg and with even Nico Hulkenberg of the unheralded Force India team ahead of him.

Even though the German star has won the last two races in Bahrain, his team boss Christian Horner is not holding out a great deal of hope that Mercedes' stranglehold will be broken this weekend.

"Their advantage in Bahrain will possibly be larger than it was in Malaysia because that is quite a power dominated circuit," Horner told website www.auto sport.com

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who finished fourth in Australia and Malaysia, has proved the master of the desert conditions, winning in 2005, 2006 and 2010.

But even his trademark rock-solid self-confidence has been dented by Rosberg and Hamilton recording runaway wins of over 35 seconds in the first two events.

"We can expect a tough race, as some of the competition is very strong and we will have to raise our game to close down the gap as quickly as possible," said the Spaniard.

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