Rosberg keeping feet on the ground despite flawless F1 start
MADRID (AP) Nico Rosberg is trying to stay calm.
After a perfect start to the Formula One season, Rosberg heads into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix seeking his fifth win in as many races - and eighth in a row going back to last year. He is coming off two consecutive pole positions and already has a significant lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
''Sport is all about ups and downs and being mentally prepared to bounce back stronger when they come,'' Rosberg said. ''With a season this long you have to just take things race by race. There are 425 points still up for grabs and anything can happen.''
Rosberg has been in top form since the end of last year, when he won three in a row to close out the season on his way to a runner-up finish behind Hamilton. He has continued to dominate in 2016 and is already 43 points ahead of his teammate, taking advantage of a series of mishaps that plagued the start of the season for the three-time world champion.
''It's not something I could have expected, winning the first four races of the year,'' Rosberg said. ''It's been a great start but I'm just enjoying the moment and the form I'm in, doing my best to keep it going and hoping I can carry it through the end of the season. I'm connecting really well with the car at the moment, which is great as it gives you this awesome confidence to push the limits.''
Hamilton is trying to remain positive despite his disappointing start.
''We've got the car in a good place setup-wise,'' Hamilton said. ''I just haven't been fully able to exploit it. So the glass is half full for me. It will be a big challenge but there's a long way to go with 17 races left and, if the last four are anything to go buy, there's a lot more still to come from us.''
Hamilton had to deal with mechanical problems that kept him from competing with Rosberg in the first four races.
''The team has been on it 24-7 since returning from Russia so I'm confident they'll get to the bottom of the problems we've been having,'' said Hamilton, who finished second at the Russian GP two weeks ago. ''I know I'm still quick. I've known that since Day 1 in testing. I head to Spain confident of a good weekend.''
Last week, Mercedes published an open letter to fans to dismiss speculation that it was favoring Rosberg over Hamilton. It said some of the mechanical issues happened because the team has been pushing the limits to ensure it remains competitive.
''It's tough to ask for more (this season,)'' Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said. ''However, it has not been plain sailing and we have had problems that we are working hard to solve. We have rivals breathing down our necks who are relentless in their chase. If you push the limits, then at a certain stage you risk stepping over them.''
Ferrari appears closer to Mercedes in speed this season, but it has also been plagued by mechanical failures to both of its drivers. Kimi Raikkonen is third in the drivers' standings, while Sebastian Vettel, who crashed at the Russian GP after twice being hit from behind by Daniil Kvyat, is fifth, 67 points behind Rosberg.
Teams will be at a familiar place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track, which is where preseason testing took place over eight days in February and March. It's also where many teams start introducing significant upgrades to their cars, which could prompt a few surprises.
''Spain is always a track that most of the drivers know 100 percent because we are always testing there in the winter,'' Williams driver Felipe Massa said. ''I'd say that everyone pretty much knows the track. It is a circuit that a good car overall normally goes well because you have a little bit of everything, high-speed corners and low-speed corners. If the car works well here, it will work well on most of the tracks.''
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni