Nico Rosberg’s strong recent form and some fighting talk towards his fellow German Sebastian Vettel has increased their rivalry ahead of their home Grand Prix this weekend.
While Red Bull’s triple champion Vettel has dominated Formula One in the last three years, Mercedes have labored in their comeback as a works team, hurting their image of German perfection and sending Michael Schumacher back into retirement.
However, Rosberg has won two of the last three races for the improving Silver Arrows, winning in Monaco and then taking advantage of Vettel’s gearbox problem at Silverstone on Sunday to seize victory in the British Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old, son of Finnish 1982 F1 champion Keke Rosberg, but born in Germany, is not daring to look at the championship standings yet and has his eyes fixed on Vettel.
“Short term, I just want to annoy Sebastian and Red Bull a little bit race by race, by being ahead of them and that’s the most important thing, really,” Rosberg told a press conference, with Vettel sitting next to him.
Sixth-placed Rosberg is 50 points behind leader Vettel in the standings after eight of 19 races, while Mercedes have moved up to second in the constructors’ standings, 48 points adrift of Red Bull.
“It’s too early to say [we are title contenders],” he said. “We’re really focusing on getting our momentum, keeping it going as we have at the moment and just concentrating one race to the next.”
“It’s a really nice time in my career at the moment. It’s new. I’ve never had a car as quick as it is now,” he added.
Vettel refused to take Rosberg’s bait and wanted to talk about his own situation after disappointment at Silverstone, despite avoiding the tire curse which affected other drivers.
“It was quite frustrating to lose the lead due to a technical problem, but as I said after the race, these things happen,” he said, having turned 26 on Wednesday. “So I think we’ve understood the problem, fixed the problem, so we move on.”
Vettel and Rosberg have never won their home Grand Prix and the champion tried to play down its importance, despite looking forward to a plethora of fluttering German flags in the stands.
“In terms of the championship points you can score here, it’s the same as every other place, but obviously it’s something special to race in front of your home crowd and I feel quite happy to have the possibility, to be honest,” Vettel said.
The German race alternates each year between Hockenheim and the Nuerburgring, which has been in financial trouble, prompting F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone to step in and make sure the Grand Prix took place this year in the famous forested venue.