By Daniel Wilson.
Anyone who has been looking at the media since Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix will know that Nico Rosberg is now the odds-on favorite to win this year’s world title, despite being only three races into the season.
The German driver has won all three opening events, and victory at the weekend secured a sixth straight win for him – one better than the personal record of his teammate Lewis Hamilton.
The current world champion suffered his biggest setback yet in Shanghai. As if going into the race with a five place grid penalty wasn’t enough, the Englishman was then let down by the reliability of his Mercedes engine – something not many of us have said in quite a long time.
But after two poor starts had cost Hamilton pole to flag wins in Australia and Bahrain, a last place start in China was the last thing he needed. Lewis recovered back to seventh despite a first corner collision with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr. However, a poor getaway from the Ferrari’s handed Rosberg another win – and with it a 36 point lead in the world championship.
Statistics are also favoring Rosberg in the long game as he aims for a first world title. The last six drivers to win the opening three races of the season have gone on to win the championship.
Hamilton’s challenge for a fourth crown is also looking bleak when you crunch the numbers. It’s the biggest deficit he has faced against a teammate while fighting for the title – even more than the gap Nico opened up in the mid-part of the 2014 season.
Lewis himself has admitted he has no more jokers left this season, and I think everyone would agree with that. As I mentioned previously, he seems to be in a better state of mind and isn’t letting the poor run get to him – but even the most relaxed of drivers will run out of patience.
So the answer in this, the longest ever F1 season, is no – he can’t afford another bad race. The Russian Grand Prix – a race which only he has triumphed at so far – is a must win if he is to mount a challenge all of us want to see for this year’s world title; because as the man himself said – Nico is running away with it.