Rosberg's lead really is a big deal, says Hamilton

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 28, 2016 12:08 PM

By Alan Baldwin

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has yet to be beaten over the course of a season by Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg but the Briton is not about to underestimate the challenge facing him this year.

With Rosberg 36 points ahead of Hamilton after winning the first three races of the year for a maximum 75 points, the Briton rejected on Thursday a suggestion that the difference was no big deal.

"I don’t look at it lightly and I don’t look at it like it’s not a big deal. It is a big deal," he told reporters at the Russian Grand Prix.

"It’s 36 points. It’s a race and a bit...I don’t look at it thinking ‘Ah, that’s nothing’. It’s a steep one to climb."

On the flip side, Hamilton came back from 29 points behind Rosberg in 2014 and this season is the longest ever with 21 races. There are still 18 to go, including a string of circuits where he has dominated in the past.

"I’ve been racing 23 years and there’s been a lot of challenges," he said when asked where his current predicament ranked among previous obstacles. "It’s just another one."

Russia, which made its debut on the calendar in 2014 after the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, offers Hamilton a great chance to make inroads into Rosberg's advantage.

The champion was a winner in 2014 and 2015 and could make it a hat-trick of wins there this weekend.

He said he just needed a trouble-free run after starting from the back of the grid at the previous race in China due to a power unit problem and then getting caught in a collision before finishing seventh.

The Briton's starts have been under scrutiny, after he qualified on pole position in the opening two races, but he was not worried about that.

"I had the best start of the whole grid in the last race," he said in reference to having the quickest getaway once the lights went out. "We have been working on that issue.

"The last two races I’ve been driving with a loss in performance of nearly a second in the race and trying to climb a mountain with that is not so easy. I’m hoping for a clean weekend, apply the good start and we can move on from there."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)