Wounded Mercedes keen to bite back in China

Wed Apr 8, 2015 5:55am EDT
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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Mercedes will be looking to reassert their Formula One dominance at the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend after the team received the loudest of wake-up calls in Malaysia by Sebastian Vettel's revitalized Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two ahead of Nico Rosberg in the season opener in Melbourne last month, the pair enjoying a Sunday stroll around Albert Park that left the rest of the field trailing in their wake and fans fearing the worst.

Another procession was expected in Malaysia but Vettel and Ferrari had other ideas with both winning a race for the first time since 2013, thanks to a car that was much kinder on the tires in the sweltering heat and a tactical masterclass from race engineers.

Mercedes are now fully aware they have a real title fight on their hands from a team that stumbled from one crisis to another in a winless 2014 campaign, but the German outfit will be happy to race at a circuit that suits the car with track temperatures far less demanding on the Pirelli tires.

"We left Malaysia with plenty to think about. It may have been a good result for the sport... but for us, it was a wake-up call," Mercedes motorsports head Toto Wolff said.

"Our opposition has raised its game and we must now raise ours even further. As we have said since Melbourne, we expect a season-long battle for both world championships and we must maximize every opportunity," he added.

"China is the next chance to do that... a circuit which has been a good hunting ground for the team."

Hamilton beat Rosberg to the chequered flag in Shanghai a year ago and while recent trends make Mercedes favorites at the 5.451 km Hermann Tilke-designed circuit, Ferrari won the race in 2013 and will be keen to prevent the Briton from registering a record-extending fourth win in China.