Start will be key, says upbeat Rosberg

 01 Oct 2016 - 15:10

 Start will be key, says upbeat Rosberg
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg drives during the qualifying session of the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on October 1, 2016. / AFP / PEDRO UGARTE

AFP

Sepang, Malaysia: World championship leader Nico Rosberg believes he can still win Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix from second on the grid, despite being comprehensively outpaced by title rival Lewis Hamilton in qualifying.

Rosberg was more than four tenths of a second down on Hamilton in the top-10 Q3 shootout on Saturday.

But the confident German alluded to Hamilton's penchant for poor getaways this season because of an ongoing Mercedes clutch issue. 

Rosberg took advantage most recently at Monza when Hamilton dropped from pole position to sixth at the start, enabling the German to cruise to an easy victory. 

"Second place doesn't mean victory is not possible, we have seen that many times," Rosberg told reporters. 

"I am still optimistic for tomorrow," said the man who leads the drivers' championship by eight points from his Mercedes teammate.

Hamilton said he hoped his starting problems were behind him and wouldn't be an issue on Sunday.

"We're trying to understand it a bit more and trying to predict what it's going to deliver. We've both generally got good starts in the last race so we are improving gradually."

Hamilton's pace in practice and qualifying Saturday was untouchable, but with Red Bull and Ferrari filling the next two rows on the grid, the three-time world champion feels Sunday's race is by no means a foregone conclusion or a guaranteed one-two for Mercedes.

"They are going to be very quick, they've been quick all weekend," he said of the threat from Red Bull and Ferrari. "It will be close, for sure, because they have very strong long runs." 

And Hamilton wouldn't be drawn on making any race predictions, but was in a relaxed and confident mood after a week where everything has gone right for him.

"When I'm on top of it like I have been this weekend, it generally goes my way on a Sunday. Let's hope that pattern continues."