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GP Week : Issue 210
23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: let the real contest now begin OPINION Nico Rosberg’s retirement from the opening stages of the singapore Grand Prix was excellent news for the Mercedes team, even if they might not think so when they look back to the potential points lost on sunday. While Daniel Ricciardo has been doing his utmost to turn the 2014 Formula One season into a three- horse race, it was clear to all and sundry during winter testing that the Silver Arrows had stolen the march on the competition, with the best of the new generation of power units packaged inside Brackley’s best aerodynamic work yet. The title fight has long been a dust-up between Rosberg and team mate Lewis Hamilton, but a spate of retirements for the British driver – two mechanical, and one somewhat controversially inflicted by the man on the other side of the garage – meant that it’s hardly been a fair fight. Hamilton started the season at a 25-point disadvantage thanks to retiring from the lead of the Australian Grand Prix, and lost another handful of points in Montreal. Rosberg, on the other hand, had more luck with his car and was able to finish in either first or second place until the British Grand Prix, the ninth round of the season. That the two Mercedes drivers are now equal on mechanical retirements benefits both men. Had Rosberg been able to see out the rest of the season unscathed by DNFs, any world title he secured would have been attributed as much to good luck with his machinery as it was to his prowess behind the wheel. And given how much work goes in to winning a title, that’s not really fair. Similarly, were Hamilton to steal the lead of the championship thanks to the double points farce which will be the Abu Dhabi season finale, his hard work would have been hidden by accusations that he only won his hard-fought crown thanks to benefitting from a fatuous and much-loathed rule that is increasingly unlikely to make it into the 2015 regulations. Now that Hamilton and Rosberg have both lost a potential 50 points thanks to equipment failure, the two racers can fight for the title on a level playing field, and do their talking on track. Whichever Mercedes driver comes out on top will have done a better job than his teammate over the course of the season, and not ‘lucked in’ because the other man lucked out. Of course, it’s not all plain sailing for the boys from Brackley. The fact that the team has suffered four purely mechanical failures during grands prix is worrying from a garage perspective. That those failures have all stemmed from different sources means that there’s no one thing wrong with the car that the team can start putting to rights to ensure iron-clad reliability for the rest of the season. Instead, the Silver Arrows have a car that is undeniably the pick of the litter, but which displays a worrying tendency to throw up brand new minor yet incapacitating problems every now and then. As a result, there is no one thing the team can do to ensure the W05 remains bulletproof all the way to Abu Dhabi. Outside championship contender Daniel Ricciardo used up his bad luck at the start of the season, however, with his Melbourne disqualification and Malaysian retirement happening in very short order. Since then, the Red Bull racer has been the only driver consistently able to take the fight to Mercedes, and he has done so in a car that has been more reliable than it is quick. Whenever Mercedes have stumbled, the smiling assassin has been there to pick up the pieces, collecting three race wins and four podium finishes in the process. The RB10 is hardly immune from its own reliability issues, of course – just ask Sebastian Vettel – but with luck, talent, and consistency on his side, Ricciardo’s rank outsider status is fading fast. He’s a contender. The race to the title began anew in Singapore on Sunday, and we have five races left to relish it. OPINION KATE WALKER