With a spring in his step, Nico Rosberg insists the verbal taunts of his teammate Lewis Hamilton are bouncing right off him. Although he has lost a second consecutive drivers' title to the Briton, German Rosberg is on a run of form at present that he hopes will carry into 2016.
One theory is that Pirelli's recent clampdown on tyre usage in formula one, or a technical tweak made by Mercedes in late September, has swung the pendulum in Rosberg's favour. "The rules aren't changing next year so that's good for me," Rosberg declared.
But after losing to Rosberg in Brazil last Sunday, Hamilton insisted he actually "had the pace" to win the race. Rosberg disagrees: "He just completely exaggerated with his tyres. I was clearly faster in the race. With his wild driving behind me he overused the tyres so much that we both had to make three stops. But I always had him under control."
He also thinks Hamilton's constant verbal sniping in recent days and weeks is a sign that the triple world champion is ruffled. "He is having a certain difficulty with the fact that I have spoiled his world championship party a bit, which I think is why certain statements and arguments are coming from him in the heat of the moment," Rosberg said in his latest column for Bild newspaper.
But another theory is that Hamilton has simply gone off the boil, perhaps due to his excessive partying, and will return to full speed in time for 2016. "How much is this success (by Rosberg) worth when the world championship is decided already?" wondered Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff agrees: "You could say that Lewis has won everything, he's met his objectives and maybe the adrenaline is not as high as before. But I'm sure neither of them know the exact reasons," he added.
Whichever of them has the upper hand next year, Ferrari's Maurizio Arrivabene is hoping his red-clad drivers can also be well in the mix. "My honest expectation," he is quoted as saying by Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, "is not just to be closer, but to be in front of them." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing