Mike Stevens | Mar 24, 2010

WHILE MICHAEL SCHUMACHER has struggled to settle at the wheel of the W01, Nico Rosberg is enjoying a smoother ride in the sister Mercedes car.

He was comfortably the team's pacesetter throughout the 2010 opener in Bahrain two weeks ago, as Schumacher grappled with understeer and the sport's new formula including thin front tyres.

"I feel very comfortable in the car at the moment," said 24-year-old Rosberg ahead of the second round of the world championship in Australia.

"We do still have some small problems that need resolving."

Asked precisely where he is a better driver than seven time world champion Schumacher, the German told Bild newspaper: "Better than one of the best of all time?

"I cannot answer that," said Rosberg. "But no one is perfect, so there are certainly areas where I am strong."

Asked if he will again outpace Schumacher this weekend, the former Williams driver remained diplomatic.

"What I want this season is to be at eye-level with Michael. And I think that I can show a strong performance in Australia."

And despite beating Schumacher throughout practice, qualifying and the race in Bahrain, Rosberg said he does not draw confidence from the fact his teammate has won at Albert Park no fewer than four times.

"If I was to only draw my confidence from Michael's statistics, then it would not be very good for me," he smiled.

He also backed Jenson Button's claim that the 5pm start time for Sunday's Melbourne race is potentially dangerous.

"If the sun is very low in the sky, it will be a big problem," he said, "especially with the high sides on the front of the cockpits this year."

(GMM)

 

Webber Not Expecting Schu To Beat Rosberg

The balance of power between Michael Schumacher and his younger teammate Nico Rosberg will not change dramatically for the duration of 2010.

That is the opinion of Red Bull's Mark Webber, who at times during his own formula one career has been highly complimentary as well as deeply critical of the seven time world champion.

Before Schumacher, 41, made his return to the F1 grid two weeks ago in Bahrain after three years of retirement, Webber said: "I have never ever seen a phenomenal comeback".

"I think it will be a bloody hard season for him," the 33-year-old Australian predicted.

Indeed, Schumacher was outpaced throughout the Bahrain weekend by Rosberg, who is 17 years younger than his famous German countryman.

Ahead of this weekend's Melbourne race, Webber believes the days of Schumacher winning races by huge margins are over.

"I wouldn't expect him to beat Nico -- I expect it to be close," he added. "Rosberg is competitive and I would say Schumacher is too."

But Jacques Villeneuve, who narrowly beat Schumacher to the title in 1997, does expect Schumacher to return to the boil.

"He can be world champion again," the French Canadian is quoted as saying by the German news agency SID.

"In his first race after three years out he was only a few tenths behind, which was a very good performance.

"Give him a few races and he will be back to where he was with Ferrari," added Villeneuve.

(GMM)

 

Hamilton Senses Webber Close To Retirement

Mark Webber could be planning to hang up his formula one helmet at the end of 2010, Lewis Hamilton said in Sydney on Wednesday.

After taking the helm of a racing yacht for a sponsor event on famous Sydney Harbour, the 2008 world champion suggested to reporters that Australian driver Webber's ninth home race this weekend might be his last.

"I don't know how long he plans to stay in formula one but I get the sense that it's one of the years he wants to finish on top and perhaps call it a day," Hamilton, who drives for McLaren, is quoted as saying by the AAP news agency.

Webber, 33, drives for Red Bull, whose 2010 car was described by Hamilton earlier this week as "ridiculously" fast.

Expanding on Webber's possible retirement, Hamilton added: "He has the best chance to end on that high this year and I wouldn't be surprised if he is considering it."

It has been rumoured that Red Bull, already with the 2007 world champion under contract in world rallying, could install Kimi Raikkonen as Sebastian Vettel's teammate in 2011.

Webber's contract runs out at the end of the season.

(GMM)

 

Button Predicts 'Same As Bahrain' In Wednesday Drizzle

There were a few spots of drizzle in the air at Albert Park on Wednesday morning, but a wet Australian grand prix remains only a remote possibility.

Local reports predict a chance of rain on both Friday and Saturday, and cloudy skies throughout Melbourne's fifteenth formula one race weekend.

But the worst of the weather should hold off until Monday, and after Wednesday's grey morning, the warm sun was shining down on the paddock by afternoon.

Some pundits are actually hoping Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather intervenes this weekend, in the wake of the processional Bahrain race two weeks ago and expectations that more one-stop strategies will be the order of the day at Albert Park.

"If you look at it, you'd say it is going to be the same as Bahrain," said reigning world champion Jenson Button in Melbourne.

Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso was one of the first to predict a boring season after the 2010 season opener, but on Tuesday he admitted that those sorts of comments had been "hot headed".

"It's too early to talk about changing the rules," said the Ferrari driver. "We have to wait and see different races and check the situation, without being emotional.

"Something that confuses the fans is changing the rules all the time," added Alonso.

The media should also be taking blame for the 'Bore-rain' hype, like Britain's Sun newspaper who said the sport now has "two races to save the season".

The newspaper was reporting the latest comments made in Australia by Button, who was denying that a rule change in one area will be enough to solve F1's new problem.

"You can't just think of one area. You need to think about a couple," said the McLaren driver, who in Bahrain struggled to match the pace of his new teammate Lewis Hamilton.

But as an insider in the Spanish media observed: "Losers always want different rules."

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