MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain Grand Prix organizers will be rubbing their hands in delight at the prospect of Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg renewing battle at their desert circuit this weekend.
Last year the pair served up a thriller under the Sakhir floodlights and now, after each accused the other of driving too slowly in China last Sunday, they have even more of a score to settle.
Both may claim to have moved on from Shanghai but their very public spat, with Rosberg accusing world champion Hamilton of compromising his race by not driving as fast as he could have, has thrown the rivalry center stage again.
Although the team discussed the situation on Sunday, the triumphant Hamilton’s subsequent comments that Rosberg did not try hard enough to overtake him and was not quick enough will have stung the German.
Rosberg is ready to turn the tables at the circuit where he made his F1 debut with Williams in 2006 and scored his first points.
“We are starting over. Lewis can drive as he pleases. It’s up to him,” he wrote in Germany’s Bild daily on Tuesday, recognizing he had been angry with his team mate in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s race.
“There will be no big change in our relationship. I can and will turn it around in a few days and beat Lewis.
“Another one-two for Mercedes would be alright with me. But this time, it should be the German anthem playing.”
Rosberg started on pole in Bahrain last year but Hamilton, who was second on the grid and overtook the German at the start, won after a wheel-to-wheel duel in the closing laps.
Although Rosberg had a tire advantage, and made several attempts to pass, Hamilton still held him off.
“I strongly dislike finishing second to Lewis but on the other hand it was the most exciting race I have ever had in my whole career,” said Rosberg afterwards.
The Mercedes duo were in a race of their own last year but now they also have Ferrari to worry about even if Hamilton, who has a 13 point lead in the championship over Sebastian Vettel, has started all three races so far on pole.
Four times world champion Vettel won twice in Bahrain with Red Bull and, after three podium finishes in three races for Ferrari including victory in Malaysia, will again pose a threat.
If the German anthem sounds again on Sunday, there are no guarantees Rosberg will be the one on the top step.
“For Bahrain, we hope to get again a bit closer,” Vettel said after finishing third in China behind the Mercedes pair.
“We have a strong car no matter what condition, that is the feeling.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury