April 14th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg finally appears to have a properly competitive car underneath him, but has retired from two out of the first three races of 2013 due to failures on his car. By contrast, Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes has finished every race, featured on the podium twice and is fourth in the Drivers' Championship, just 12 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg must be feeling a little bit like his former team-mate Michael Schumacher in 2012. Last year, Schumacher had a string of car problems that cost him a great deal of points early in the season, while Rosberg won in China and finished most races of the first half of the season in the points. This year, all of the problems at Mercedes are occurring on Rosberg's car - first a gearbox failure in Australia, then a handling problem in China today that seemed like a probable rear anti-roll bar failure.
To compound Rosberg's frustrations, he was instructed by team principal Ross Brawn to stay behind Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, despite being substantially faster than his team-mate who needed to save fuel in order to reach the end of the race. That was Rosberg's only realistic chance of finishing on the podium so far in 2013, and he was not permitted by the team to take it.
Mechanical failures are a part of Formula 1, and Rosberg knows that, but the combination of car failures and team orders will no doubt leave Rosberg wondering if Mercedes are really prepared to support his title challenge as much as they appear to be backing Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg himself remains publicly positive about the team, however, and said the following after today's Chinese Grand Prix:
"The race was tough for me today and with my set-up I had an unexpected level of understeer which made it difficult to drive. After my second pit stop, the feeling got worse and I had one front wheel in the air during the corners. The rear anti-roll bar, which influences the balance of the car, had broken so unfortunately we had to retire the car. It's a shame and I've had a difficult start to the season with two DNFs. But it's good to have the next race in just seven days time so hopefully we can put this result behind us with a strong weekend in Bahrain. It was great for the team to get another podium today."