By Alan Baldwin
SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) – Nico Rosberg is the only current Formula One driver to have won in Austria and Mercedes’ championship leader intends to keep it that way on Sunday by completing his hat-trick in Red Bull’s backyard.
The German arrives at the scenic Red Bull Ring buoyed by a victory in Baku which restored his lead over team mate and triple champion Lewis Hamilton to 24 points with 13 rounds remaining.
“Baku was a good weekend for me. I really felt at one with the car,” said Rosberg, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday.
“I can’t wait to see what it can do in Spielberg. To have two wins from two races at any track is pretty special, so if I could make it three in three that would be awesome.
“It’s a short run to the first corner there and generally my starts and first corners have been strong this season, so if I can qualify well there’s a good chance of a top result. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Rosberg dominated in Azerbaijan, leading all the way from pole position and also setting the fastest lap.
Yet he has never started from the front in Austria, winning last year from second on the grid and third in 2014 when Williams swept the front row.
Hamilton, who finished fifth in Baku after starting 10th, will be looking to do much better at what he calls an ‘old school track’.
“It’s fast, with a good flow to it. It’s tough to overtake but there are places you can try something different so that’s a good challenge,” he said.
“It’s definitely a big advantage starting up front there, though, so I need to get back on it in qualifying and do a better job than last time out.”
Red Bull, who own the southern circuit, will be thinking along the same lines while also braced for another tough afternoon.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was eighth and 10th in the last two editions of the race as the former champions’ highest finisher.
Team principal Christian Horner expected another challenging day at a power-sensitive circuit more likely to favor Mercedes-engined rivals with Force India and Williams in the mix along with Rosberg’s Silver Arrows.
Only Mercedes-powered cars have finished in the top three since the race returned to the calendar in 2014 after an 11-year break, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel fourth last season.
“Maybe there’ll be a chicane on the straight this year,” joked Horner.
“But thereafter we’ve got circuits that we know will come back towards us so it’s sort of get through Austria, damage limitation, before getting into the likes of Hungary, Silverstone, Hockenheim etc.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)