Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton’s title defense has got off to a somewhat rocky start in 2016. In the opening three Grand Prix the triple world champion has finished 2nd, 3rd and seventh last time out in China.
Hamilton will be hoping that he take a repeat win in Russia this season to close the 36 point gap in the championship to team mate and points leader Nico Rosberg. Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race in Russia, Hamilton commented by saying:
There was plenty going through my head after China, as you’d expect. But, after all these years, experience has taught me to stay calm and keep pushing forwards when I get knocked back. I’ve been here before a few times now. A lot can happen over the next eighteen race weekends and I have the utmost confidence in this team. But adversity is part of the journey: it brings us closer, makes us stronger and I know that together we’ll bounce back, so I’m confident of better weekends to come. There are lots of positives to carry into the next battle. If nothing else, I know after these first few races that I can still overtake! I had a great start in China too, so hopefully I can continue that and use it to my advantage to build my races from a better base. It’s Russia up next – a race that I’ve won on both occasions so far and a track that seems to suit me pretty well, so let’s see what we can do there…
While Hamilton has struggled so far this season, in contrast, Nico Rosberg is riding a giant wave having taken victory in all of the first three races of the season and goes into the race weekend with such an advantage that even if he was to not finish in Russia or fail to score points he head to the European leg of the season starting in Spain next month still leading the championship.
Speaking ahead of the race in Russia, Rosberg commented by saying:
It’s great to see that we still have the quickest car out there and, of course, it’s always the plan to win every race. But I would never have expected the first three weekends to go the way they have. I’ve made the most of my opportunities and I have a bit of an advantage in the points right now – but we are only three races down and it would just take one bad weekend for that gap to disappear. Lewis is still the benchmark for me as he is the current Champion, Ferrari haven’t shown what they can do yet and Red Bull also look like they’re getting stronger, so it’s going to be a good battle and I’m looking forward to that. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For now, I’m just taking things race by race, focusing on doing my own thing and getting the job done to the best of my ability. That approach has worked out well for me so far. Now, I can’t wait to get to Sochi. I was looking good all weekend last year until a technical problem put me out of the race and I had great fun fighting from the back the year before, so I know I’m competitive at this track. It holds great memories of celebrating the two Championship wins with the team too, so I’m excited to be heading back and seeing how we perform.
Head of Mercedes Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff commented by saying:
We may have made a solid start – but at this stage it’s about collecting points without looking too much at the Championship. We are just three races down with eighteen still to go. I have no doubt that we will see a close fight on all fronts right up to the end of the season. Both drivers are a good place mentally. Nico is on great form but keeping his feet firmly on the ground. Lewis would have every right to feel disheartened by his start to the season – but he is calm and confident, handling adversity like a true Champion. We have an important week ahead for the sport, with our final Strategy Group meeting to define the regulations for 2017. After three Grand Prix weekends so far in 2016, we have seen that performance between the teams is converging to create great racing. Whether we have the reactivity as a group to recognise that and consider retaining a regulatory framework that is working well remains to be seen.
Unfortunately that meeting that Wolff spoke about concluded without agreement for the 2017 technical regulations.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s race in Russia, Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe commented by saying:
It’s unusual to be returning to a race just six months after the previous edition. Such a significant calendar shift could bring quite a different climatic profile too. This is our third trip to the Sochi Autodrom, so it will be interesting to see how the track has aged. In the first two seasons we saw a very smooth track surface. With that in mind, the allocation of the Medium, Soft and SuperSoft compound for this year is quite a conservative choice. Another interesting feature is that Sochi has the longest run down to the first braking zone of any circuit on the calendar and it’s a heavy braking event, which can easily catch drivers out on the first lap. After eventful opening laps in Bahrain and China, there could be early drama once again on Sunday. We’re looking forward to being back in Russia and aiming to replicate our strong form in Sochi on previous occasions. After a less-than-satisfactory weekend in China from a reliability perspective, one of our priorities is to have a clean weekend on both sides of the garage. In any case, we look forward to putting on another exciting race for the sport’s growing fan base in Russia.