AUSTIN: Nico Rosberg will be aiming for nothing less than an outright victory against his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton when they take their world title duel to Mexico next weekend.
In the wake of Hamilton’s dominant victory at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, the championship leading German admitted he was disappointed to finish only second and owed that result to a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) intervention when he was running third.
“It was a help for me, for sure,” he said. “I wanted to win, but I am glad to limit the damage too – but I will be trying to go for a victory in Mexico. I really want to go there and win.”
Rosberg acknowledged that the VSC, deployed when Dutch teenager Max Verstappen retired with a gearbox failure and parked his Red Bull by the side of the track at the Circuit of the Americas, played a key part in him finishing second and not third.
It enabled him to take a ‘free’ pit stop that changed the shape of the race and wrecked Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s hopes of finishing second behind Hamilton.
By finishing second, Rosberg lost seven points to defending three-time champion Hamilton rather than 10 if he had been third – a key factor in the championship as it means his lead was trimmed to 26 points with three races remaining instead of 23.
A race victory is worth 25 points.
Rosberg can take the title with a victory in Mexico if the Briton fails to score by increasing his lead to 51 points with two races to go – a scenario that was impossible if he finished third.
“It is all part of the strategy in a race,” said Rosberg. “When you go long (in a stint), you know there is a small chance of being able to benefit from those scenarios, as well as being able to give it a run at the end of the race.
“It is part of the game. It came at the right moment for me, for sure.”
Hamilton’s first win in six races kept his challenge alive, but he knows that Rosberg can take the title by finishing second behind him if he wins all three remaining races.
Rosberg, however, had no intention of taking a conservative route to his maiden championship win.
“No, I don’t see it like that,” he said, when asked if he felt that finishing second on Sunday was ‘mission accomplished’. “I wanted to win the US Grand Prix and it didn’t work out.
“So, I’m not ecstatic, of course, but Lewis did a great job this weekend. It was his weekend.
“I was pushing like mad to try and close up and put slight pressure in some way on him, but it wasn’t enough.”
He added: “When I get to the next race in Mexico, I’m just going to go for the win because I’d love to get the win there.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted Rosberg was lucky to take second thanks to the VSC.
“I think it would have been a very different result without that,” he said.
“We had the pace, but we were very fortunate when the VSC came out. We haven’t been very lucky in the last few race so we will take that.”
That most of Mercedes’ bad luck has been had by Hamilton with a series of engine failures and poor starts was not highlighted by Wolff who added that he expects Red Bull to be a threat in the final races.
“They have done a good job and they have closed up to us and they were very strong on Friday. It is going to be very difficult in the last three races.”