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Rosberg: Mercedes can challenge for F1 title

From Amanda Davies, CNN
May 8, 2012 -- Updated 1627 GMT (0027 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This year is shaping up to be the most open in F1 history with four different race winners
  • Mercedes' Nico Rosberg says team is in strong position to take advantage
  • German tells CNN that improvements to car and open season could be perfect conditions
  • Mercedes downplays reports that the company may quit F1 in the near future

(CNN) -- With four different drivers winning each of the four races so far, 2012 is shaping up as one of the most open seasons in Formula One history.

And with no clear favorite yet to emerge, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg says his team is in a strong position to finally end a long title wait.

The German marque has won only one race since returning to the elite division of motorsport in 2010 after an absence of half a century away, but Rosberg has hopes of emulating the 1954-55 world championship successes of legendary racer Juan Manuel Fangio.

The 26-year-old's win at the China Grand Prix last month was Mercedes' first since Fangio's victory in Italy in 1955, and his first in 111 career starts.

Schumacher proud of German drivers
Michael Schumacher in the modern Silver Arrow while Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg takes the wheel of the 1955 model. Michael Schumacher in the modern Silver Arrow while Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg takes the wheel of the 1955 model.
In the hot seat
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Nico Rosberg celebrates his first victory for Mercedes in the Chinese Grand Prix. He is the third son of an F1 driver to win a race, following in the footsteps of father Keke. Nico Rosberg celebrates his first victory for Mercedes in the Chinese Grand Prix. He is the third son of an F1 driver to win a race, following in the footsteps of father Keke.
Rosberg makes three
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Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher gets behind the wheel of the new F1 W03 at an official preseason test event in Barcelona. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher gets behind the wheel of the new F1 W03 at an official preseason test event in Barcelona.
Make way for Mercedes
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"Before China we were really struggling in races and we worked hard and improved the car, modified the set up quite a lot with the car," Rosberg told CNN ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

"We're not the best yet, which is what we want to be soon, but we're getting there and we were the best in China.

"It's a difficult season also, everybody is a little bit up and down this year. In the championship I'm in a really good position. We really need to focus and improve the car step by step and try and get the most out of it and try and get ahead of the others."

The most open F1 season came in 1982 when at least 11 different drivers stood on top of the podium. But even then, Alain Prost of Renault won the first two races.

Rosberg believes Mercedes is in a strong position to overcome the disappointments of the past two seasons.

"The team is just doing a much better job, they're working together better. There's even more competence now in the team. New people have joined and we're getting there and we're really growing quickly," he said.

"It's taken longer for us and been more difficult than expected. But now we're really on a roll and going in the right direction, and for everybody China was a very emotional moment."

Rosberg's veteran teammate Michael Schumacher has blamed F1's sole tire supplier Pirelli for the unpredictable results in 2012, but the younger German is keen to see the positives in an open season and said the difficult conditions at last month's Bahrain Grand Prix were a great learning experience.

The hot Middle Eastern country took its toll on tires, with McLaren's former world champion Jenson Button suffering a puncture and retiring on the penultimate lap. His teammate Lewis Hamilton finished eighth, losing his championship lead to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

Rosberg finished fifth after failing to repeat his China pace, and 43-year-old Schumacher was 10th after fighting his way up from the bottom of the grid.

"Bahrain was probably the toughest conditions tire-wise we've had until now and there we were beating teams like McLaren, who until then had been dominating the season," Rosberg said.

Mercedes, meanwhile, has downplayed reports it could be set to quit F1.

British newspaper The Times claimed the UK-based team could be forced out over a power dispute arising from F1's proposed stock exchange flotation.

It said Mercedes would miss out on a boardroom place despite its large investment as an engine manufacturer in the past two decades, while rival teams Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren would all be given representation by F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone.

However a Mercedes spokesman told CNN: "We are in discussions with the commercial rights holder and we would like to ask for your understanding that we are not currently commenting on these discussions."

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