GRANOLLERS, Spain (AP) — Encouraged by his performance at the Bahrain Grand Prix three weeks ago, Nico Rosberg hopes he can get his faltering Formula One title bid firmly underway at this week's Spanish GP.
Although Rosberg finished third in Bahrain, braking problems late on deprived him of second place, spoiling the German driver, who at times was at his aggressive best with some fine overtaking moves.
Rosberg, last year's championship runner-up behind Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, has won only one of his past 15 races, and has failed to take pole position in four races this season.
"It's just a matter of maximizing the weekend. It's not really come together until now, parts have gone and not gone well," Rosberg said on Thursday at a news conference. "(Bahrain) felt like a good race. I felt comfortable in the race, and it's enjoyable to drive like that, so it's given me a boost."
He trails Hamilton by 27 points in the championship, and is only one point ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is the only driver to have beaten Hamilton so far, when he won the Malaysian GP.
Rosberg has sometimes let his frustrations spill over, accusing Hamilton of driving deliberately slowly in order to scupper him at the Chinese GP, and another time berating his engineers over race radio. He has been a fraction off the pace in qualifying, and has not managed to get close enough to Hamilton on race day.
Asked if he felt like he was falling further and further behind Hamilton, Rosberg said he was close to finding his best form again.
"Thank you very much for your kind question. The results speak for themselves, they're pretty clear," he said. "(But) I come here after a boost from Bahrain."
At the same stage last year, Rosberg had won one race and taken three second places — compared to two second places and two thirds in this campaign. But Rosberg started to improve at this same stage last year as F1 headed into Europe — winning the Monaco GP, then in Austria and Germany to put the pressure back on Hamilton.
This year's championship is more open, with four-time champ Vettel confirming Ferrari's return to form and shaping up as a genuine title contender.
"I am by no means in the clear, I've got a long way to go, and others are coming very hard to close that gap," Hamilton said. "So I've got to really stay on my toes, to innovate with things I do on the track."
However, Vettel needs to improve on his performance in Bahrain, where he finished fifth after sustaining a front wing problem. Even aside from that hiccup, the German was not at his best.
"It's true that it was not the best race, not as strong as before. With the wing failure it was hard, but overall there were a couple of things that we didn't do 100 percent," Vettel said. "The rhythm I found was not the best. We seemed to lose it somewhere in the first stint, and then things didn't really come our way."
With teams widely expected to bring upgrades this weekend, all eyes will be on McLaren — which has failed to score a point as it continues to adapt to the new Honda engines — and on Red Bull. Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo has already used three of his four allocated engines, while his Russian teammate Daniil Kvyat has also been hampered by engine failures.
"We've had a few weekends that were quite tricky for many reasons," Kvyat said. "The situation's not easy for us. We try to take the best out of what we have and keep on working."