Britain's Lewis Hamilton has piled the pressure on Mercedes team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg after being slapped with a five-place grid penalty at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 17 points in the drivers’ championship, was handed the sanction after changing his gearbox following damage sustained in Bahrain earlier this month. Rules state that drivers must use a single gearbox for six consecutive races.
The 31-year-old is yet to record a victory since claiming his third world title at the United States Grand Prix in October, and if he manages to qualify fastest will only start sixth on the grid at best.
“It’s going to be an easy weekend for Nico, but that does not mean I can’t give him a good run for his money from wherever I start,” said Hamilton. “It also doesn’t mean I can’t win the race, which is my thought process rather than damage limitation.”
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, has been declared “provisionally fit” for Sunday’s race in Shanghai after sustaining fractured ribs in the season’s opener in Melbourne.
Alonso’s participation depends on further examination by governing body the FIA following the conclusion of today’s opening practice, although the 34-year-old is in no doubt in his own mind.
“I feel good,” said Alonso. “Obviously Bahrain, I was mentally 100 per cent ready to race, but physically I had a lot of pain. Now, the situation has improved a lot.”