SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - A beaming Nico Rosberg predicted he and Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton will be battling for victory in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix with their swift adaptation to the new regulations leaving the opposition trailing.
The German driver overtook pole sitter Hamilton before the first turn of the season opening race in Melbourne two weeks ago to go on and grab the first chequered flag of the V6 turbocharged engine era.
With little time for their rivals to employ significant upgrades, Rosberg was quietly confident his fifth career victory could come in Malaysia on Sunday.
“The chances are that we will be right at the front it seems we already have a bit of an advantage over the other people,” the German told reporters at the Sepang Circuit on Thursday.
“Of course Melbourne is not a bench mark as a race so we should be cautious with that but we are looking good so for sure it will be possible to get a great result here.”
The technical changes introduced for the 2014 season are the biggest most of the sport’s engineers and mechanics have ever seen, with new quieter engines, energy recovery systems and an emphasis on fuel economy as the sport embraces a ‘green revolution’.
After four consecutive world titles for Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the last coming after the German won nine straight races, the new changes have leveled the playing field and unsurprisingly Rosberg was all for it.
“I think it’s been all good for F1, it has changed the pecking order around which is definitely good for everybody after the same guy winning last year. We needed a bit of a change on that so that’s been good,” he said.
”Its been a fantastic start to the season. I think the whole team has done a great job with these new regulations with the car and engine and the power trend they have built.
“We looked to be the quickest at the moment which is fantastic but then we must be careful with that and the opposition is not asleep and they are pushing like crazy.”
Despite the strength of the car, Hamilton encountered engine problems in Melbourne and was told to retire by the team over the radio on his third lap.
The Briton told reporters on Thursday he would be using the same engine in Malaysia and stressed the importance of reliability, especially in the testing conditions in Sepang where temperatures are high and the humidity heavy.
“Reliability is going to be put to the real test because it’s so hot the engine is going to be on the absolute limit and I really don’t know how big the advantage is going to be,” the 2008 world champion said.
“When you lose 25 points that’s a serious deficit to catch up and from one DF (did not finish) you can gain a large amount. I hope for our team that we don’t have anymore DFs this year.”
Despite the stuttering start to the season, Hamilton shared Rosberg’s confidence in the car and said it was important the team made the most of their advantage before the grid inevitably made up the time over the year.
“Everyone else is pushing massively hard to catch us up and we can definitely not sit back and relax we have got to keep pushing and keep trying to develop the car,” the Briton said.
”We got to try and capitalize as much as we can, I tried to do that in the last race and I will try and do that from moving forward
“We should be strong this weekend.”
Reporting by Patrick Johnston; editing by Justin Palmer