SHANGHAI, April 18 (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg said he felt outperforming Michael Schumacher in all four races this season was earning him the respect of his Mercedes team but brushed off suggestions he is now their number one driver.
The 24-year-old German finished third for the second race in a row at the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday to move into second place in the world championship behind Jenson Button.
Schumacher, who seven times topped the standings at the end of the season before his 2006 retirement, had another difficult day in his first season back and finished 10th.
“From the very beginning we have been even in the team, even though everyone saw Michael as number one and me as number two,” Rosberg told reporters.
“Before the season I was hoping to be on one level with Michael all year, but I expect him to be there again next race and to be fighting with him would be great, and would be good for the team as well.”
Rosberg, son of former world champion Keke, joined Mercedes from Williams for the start of this year and, as he suggested, had been largely viewed as the apprentice beside his 41-year-old compatriot.
“Of course I’m very, very happy with how things are going for me, I’m starting to get really consistent results, making the best of it. So I’m really pleased with my season so far,” he said.
“It’s nice, I’m bonding well with the whole team. It’s important for me to work hard to get some respect within the team as soon as possible and I think I’ve managed to do that.”
Mercedes won the drivers’ and constructors’ title in their previous incarnation as Brawn GP last year but have looked off the pace this season.
Rosberg, who has yet to win a race in 74 grands prix, feels they are, however, making progress.
“We’ve made a step in the right direction this weekend,” he said. “There’s more to come from the team so it’s really good to be heading into the European season with some strong results and second place in the drivers’ championship.”
Editing by Ed Osmond, To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org