Formula One 2016

Nico Rosberg wary of Lewis Hamilton backlash in Formula One title race

The German leads the championship by 23 points from his Mercedes teammate with five races remaining this season, starting with this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 6:48pm

Nico Rosberg is bracing himself for a backlash from wounded Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton after seizing the initiative in the Formula One title race.

Reigning world champion Hamilton looked to be cruising to victory in Malaysia last weekend before his engine blew up as Rosberg’s battling third-place finish allowed the German to open a 23-point lead with five races left.

Rosberg, whose feud with Hamilton has threatened to boil over in previous years, predicted that Hamilton would come back strong in the championship run-in.

“I don’t draw encouragement from [Hamilton’s troubles],” insisted Rosberg, who threw away a 43-point advantage earlier this season. “I don’t really think too much about Lewis’s misfortune, I think more about my situation.

“Anyways I know that Lewis, when he has difficulties like that, will come back fully-motivated.

“So it’s not really encouraging to know that he’s going to come back as strong as ever.”

In stark contrast to Hamilton, who angrily tore into Mercedes after his third engine failure of the season in Sepang, Rosberg is enjoying a purple patch of form, having won three races in a row before Malaysia.

“I really learnt to manage my energies and know where not to waste energies in rubbish stuff,” said Rosberg.

“There for sure I’ve made big progress. It’s important to me and I really like to take that approach.”

Asked to elaborate, he smiled: “The rubbish stuff would be reading the news, for example, or playing computer games, or going partying until five in the morning.”

Bullish: Daniel Ricciardo leads Red Bull Malaysian Grand Prix one-two as Lewis Hamilton retires

It was not clear if that remark was a sly dig at Hamilton and his elaborate lifestyle, but Rosberg is in the form of his life and a first-ever victory in Suzuka this weekend would severely dent Hamilton’s title hopes.

Rosberg played down concerns that technical problems could decide the championship race.

“I’m not worried because I have learnt to put my energy into things that I can influence – and that’s something I definitely can’t influence,” said the 31-year-old, who finished second behind Hamilton last year after starting on pole.

“I also have all the trust in the team,” added Rosberg, who suffered an ERS (energy recovery system) problem in the 2014 title decider in Abu Dhabi.

Back in the driving seat: Nico Rosberg reclaims championship lead after winning Singapore Grand Prix

“They always do the best they can to make sure problems like that don’t happen again. They have come with certain changes for this weekend.

“It’s just the approach I’ve decided to take this year and which has been working well: just to not think about the big picture and just take it race by race. It works for me to simplify things and just be very much in the moment.”

Watch: Japanese Grand Prix circuit guide