The race for the 2012 world drivers’ title once again looked like it would be a straight shoot-out between the duos from McLaren and Red Bull but last weekend’s win for shot Nico Rosberg might have changed everything.
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It may have taken the young German 111 attempts but Rosberg enjoyed a superb weekend in Shanghai and led from start to finish to claim his first chequered flag at the Chinese Grand Prix in emphatic style.
The 26-year-old has always been on the verge of claiming the headlines for his performances on the track but, in his Mercedes this season, he stands a great chance of breaking the hold the likes of McLaren and Red Bull have enjoyed in recent campaigns.
Mercedes have worked hard during the off-season and their pace in qualifying at Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai was impressive, but there were question marks over their ability to convert that pace into wins and places on the podium.
Both Rosberg and his team-mate Michael Schumacher certainly have a car that can challenge for the championship, especially considering their straight-line speed which has been helped by their rear-wing air-flow system that has been causing controversy in recent weeks but has been deemed legal by the authorities.
British duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will have their work cut out for them if they are to nip this potential threat from Rosberg in the bud.
Button has already admitted he expects his Mercedes rival to be in the running for the championship this season and, considering the pace shown by German outfit through the qualification sessions this season, who could blame him?
What Hamilton and Button will have in their favour is the experience to win races and take chequered flags in consecutive meetings, which of course is invaluable to winning a world drivers’ championship.
Let’s not forget the current defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull who dominated the 2011 campaign, as he secured his second consecutive title.
Vettel does find himself somewhat off the pace after the first three races of the season and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to being in a car that doesn’t leave all other teams trembling before it like last term.
The 24-year-old has been there and done it but now finds his fellow countryman Rosberg looking like a potential threat to his crown this season.
But is it too much to base a title challenge on just one Formula One meeting?
The big test will come this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix and beyond to see whether Rosberg can keep up his scintillating pace and leave the competition in his wake.
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