Spanish Grand Prix: can the gap close between Mercedes duo
Hostilities will resume at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend as Formula One rolls into town for the start of the European season.
It is a pivotal race for Nico Rosberg as he attempts to close the gap to his team-mate, the runaway Championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
Despite his feisty, combative drive in the last race in Bahrain, Rosberg could only finish third after his car suffered mechanical issues and is now 27 points behind his Championship rival.
Whilst the lead is not insurmountable, all the pressure is on the German to beat Hamilton and
close the gap as soon as possible.
Team boss Niki Lauda has called on Rosberg to be more aggressive and he needs to show it sooner rather than later before the current world champion wraps up the title by the Autumn.
The biggest problem for Rosberg is that although his level hasn’t dipped, Hamilton has lifted his exponentially, to the point that we are witnessing the Brit driving at his absolute peak.
In the past, off track dramas would distract and hamper Hamilton but there’s a sense of maturity, calmness and a determination to make up for lost time after years of trailing in the wake of the mighty Red Bull.
A small glimmer of hope for Rosberg could come in the shape of the Ferraris who have exceeded all expectations and provided stern resistance to Mercedes.
Hamilton and Rosberg both know that if they slip up, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be there to pick up the pieces and take full advantage, as they both showed in Malaysia and Bahrain.
With Formula One back in Europe after a three week break, teams will have had the chance to evaluate the first four races and bring upgraded packages to the Catalan city.
The likes of Red Bull, Williams and especially McLaren, will be desperate to show some signs of improvement after a difficult opening to the season.
Red Bull have suffered a number of reliability issues and their fractious relationship with engine supplier Renault has almost boiled over at times with both sides pinning blame on each other and delivering ultimatums.
Williams have been the best of the rest behind the Mercedes and Ferrari but compared to last year, they’ve struggled to keep up with the leaders. Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa have a good car underneath them but they aren’t maximising its potential.
McLaren have endured a turbulent start to the year. To see one of the giants of motorsport struggling at the back of the grid and being overly positive after disastrous results is unfitting for a team run by Ron Dennis.
Fernando Alonso makes his first return to Barcelona after his crash during pre-season testing and is adamant he has no fears.
But conflicting stories from Alonso and his team has meant the full story behind the accident has yet to be truly revealed and the Spaniard, whilst being the darling of the home crowd, needs a strong points finish to raise spirits at McLaren.
Popular bets are Lewis Hamilton at 1/2, Nico Rosberg at 7/2. Enjoy the race and as always, protect your betting losses with up to 20% cashback through Gambling Deals.