F1: Rosberg seeks Austrian hat-trick

German increased his lead to 24 points after Baku win

Nico Rosberg is out to confirm his renewed momentum in the title race by completing a hat-trick at one of his favourite circuits at this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix.

The German increased his lead in the drivers' world championship to 24 points ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by winning the European Grand Prix in Baku after the Briton, again, suffered a series of setbacks.

Since the sharp, tight and relatively-short Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar in 2014, Rosberg has enjoyed a 100 per cent record and will hope for another successful weekend in the Styrian Alps to push him further clear.

Hamilton, however, knows that he has to respond quickly and will hope for plenty of unsettled and wet weather to maximise his hope of cutting that lead to a more manageable size.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, mindful of the increasing challenge of Red Bull, on the team's 'home' circuit, and improved Ferrari, has made clear that his outfit have to push and push hard to stay on top through the mid-European section of the season.

"We didn't maximise our potential in Baku," said Wolff.

"We left there a little disappointed. I think our package is as competitive as ever and we have seen that both drivers are pushing right to the limit - sometimes even beyond it - and that is what we want to see.

"It would be easy to get complacent or ease off the pedal after our recent success, but they are pushing themselves, each other and the team forward with every step.

"Our priority is to eliminate the small errors that have cost us points here and there... We need every weapon at our disposal operating at maximum capacity to fight off the opposition now."

In Baku, Hamilton was supremely fast and dominated practice before crashing several times in a calamitous qualifying session and then suffering from engine mode problems in the race.

The Englishman, who last weekend revealed that he feels he and Rosberg are enjoying a far more harmonious relationship this season, will not be the only driver seeking a serious change in fortunes and results after the visit to Azerbaijan.

Kimi Raikkonen has been told by Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne that he has to deliver better results to prove that he 'deserves' another contract in 2017.

"It's up to him," said Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne. "Kimi's time with Ferrari will depend on his performance. He has to show he deserves to stay otherwise I think he wont want to continue.

"There will come a day when I will leave as well..."

As Raikkonen prepares to handle another weekend of pressure at Ferrari, Spaniard Carlos Sainz will be racing with a sense of freedom after Red Bull this week took up their option on his contract to continue with Toto Rosso, until the end of 2017.

"We took it up so he is committed to us for the next 12 months," Red Bull boss Christian Horner said. "Then, we have the chance to place our drivers where we want them."

Horner added that he expected Russian Daniil Kvyat to stay with Toro Ross as Sainz's team-mate next year.

"I think Dany Kvyat is finding his feet now and there isn't an obvious candidate at the moment that would warrant that seat."

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