Standing 19 points ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton with 2 races to go, Nico Rosberg’s destiny remains very much in his own hands. And as the F1 calendar heads to Brazil for the penultimate race of the season, Jennie Gow shares her thoughts on why the German would be worthy World Champion.
When I was at school, it’s fair to say I wasn’t always top of the class. Whether it was being part of the cross country team, (where I was selected for regional finals but came last), just missing out on the first set in French lessons or getting the lead role in the school play (in the chorus), I would always strive for 100%. But despite that effort, success at the highest level usually eluded me.
Nonetheless, everyone loves a trier. The underdog is, after all, the hallmark of what British success springs from. And that is why, when Nico Rosberg attempts to win the World Drivers’ Championship this weekend, there will be many – not just in his native Germany – cheering him on.
The naysayers will say that Rosberg has been lucky this season. Or, more specifically, that his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton has been unlucky.
It’s hard to argue against that. Hamilton has suffered engine failures in China and Russia and then, again – and perhaps most damagingly – in Malaysia, when he was leading the race. Bad starts and collisions in six races this season have further compounded Hamilton’s woes.
Such issues are, for the most part, something Rosberg has so far avoided. Yes, there was THAT collision in Spain – which saw both drivers crashing out, leaving the race wide open for Max Verstappen to record his maiden F1 victory. Other than that, Rosberg’s record has been one of consistency, through which the 31 year old has earned his spot at the top of the standings. For that, he has to be commended.
In sport, perseverance is a quality that should be rewarded. And if Rosberg can secure his first World Championship, he would surely be a deserving champion, not least for the way he has stuck in there and continued to fight in the face of adversity.
No doubt, Rosberg has shown resilience. At the end of 2014, he lost the title to Hamilton, owing to an engine failure of his own. The Briton won 11 races that year, compared to Rosberg’s five. And had it not been for the double points rule, the season would have been tied up a lot sooner. Many commentators wrote Rosberg off at the time, suggesting he may walk away from the challenge.
Those thoughts were compounded in 2015, when double points thankfully disappeared and Hamilton further dominated his teammate. Hamilton went on to win a total of 10 races, having arguably taken his foot off the gas at the end of the season once the title was tied up. Rosberg was outwitted and outraced and, with his contract coming up for renewal, questions remained as to whether he might walk. Was he so demoralised at having lost to his teammate two years in a row, with the best car on the grid, that he would hang up his overalls and admit defeat?
It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Certainly, we have seen drivers walking away after losing titles before, either from the sport or from their teams. But Rosberg has done no such thing. Undeterred, he has hung on in there, ramping up his efforts to become an F1 World Champion.
Let’s face it, it’s not exactly a horrible situation – getting paid millions of pounds for doing something you love. But how hard must it have been for Rosberg to always be the ‘other’ man? To rise from those ashes to now be in with a chance of finally winning the title is impressive and, for many, that is reason enough to cheer on the would-be champion.
In my experience, Nico Rosberg is an extremely likable chap. When I first met him, he was curious and asked questions of me that no other driver would think to do. He wanted to know a bit about me before he let me into his world. He jokes around, though is seriously clever – speaking at least five languages fluently. He conducts his media interviews in a unique manner in the paddock, switching from Italian to English, French to Spanish, without faltering. It’s impressive to watch, and is about as far away from the ‘Blonde Bimbo’ image that earned him the nickname ‘Britney’ some years ago.
Yes, Rosberg has blonde hair and lives in Monaco. He was born to a World Champion – Keke Rosberg – and has a lifestyle that most can only dream of. He has lived a life of privilege, with private jets and multi-million pound deals. But he has equally proved himself on the racetrack, winning the inaugural GP2 Championship in 2005, shortly after turning down a place at Imperial College, London, where he was accepted to study aeronautical engineering.
When he won his first F1 race in China in 2012, I was on the same flight home as him. He wasn’t in first class – he was in business class – and was carrying a rather gaudy bouquet of flowers that he had been handed by a fan at the airport. He took the time to have a chat with me and actually asked if I was ok after he saw me with tears pouring down my face. I was watching a sad movie at the time, but he was worried something was wrong. It was a very sweet thing of him to do, and showed the man behind the racer. That is the thing that can be frustrating about Rosberg – very rarely does he reveal who he really is.
Whereas Lewis Hamilton wears his heart on his sleeve, Rosberg is much more cautious when it comes to publicly expressing his emotions and his true personality. He is wily, and reveals only what he wants to reveal to the media, keeping much of his life ‘off limits’. I can’t blame him for that. However, sometimes when interviewing him, I can’t help feeling like a mouse to his cat, and that he’s just playing with me before getting his claws out and issuing a mortal blow. As I said before, he is a clever chap and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
As for Monaco this year, many judge his season on that one performance. He wasn’t able to compete in the rain around his home city track, pulling to the side to let Hamilton through to compete with Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, something Rosberg just wasn’t able to do that day. It’s a strange anomaly in an otherwise impressive season for the German. Maybe there was more going on that day than meets the eye? Whatever the real reasoning behind that move, it condemned Rosberg to criticism from fans and commentators alike, some of whom suggested that a driver who can’t compete in the rain in Monaco is not worthy of the World Champion title. But just as there are many ways to skin a cat in life, in F1, there are many ways to win a title.
It is 24 years since Rosberg’s father was crowned World Champion. He won just one race that year – the Swiss GP. Much like with Nico today, many were critical of him at the time. Didier Peroni was favourite to win the title that year, but his hopes were dashed after what would turn out to be a career-ending crash at the 1982 German Grand Prix. Also in the mix that year were the likes of John Watson, Alain Prost and Niki Lauda. Nonetheless, Keke Rosberg did win that year and it was his show of consistency which proved the key to the title. Sound familiar?
If Nico wins this season, he will become only the second father-son champion after Graham and Damon Hill. It’s hard to believe that, with all the famous father-son races we’ve had, that a stat such as that has proved so elusive.
With 19 points between Rosberg and Hamilton, a win in Brazil would be enough for Nico to tie up the title. It’s hard to believe Hamilton has NEVER won at Interlagos. Indeed, it remains the ONLY track on the current calendar at which he has never won – though his final dash to 5th place in the rain, which saw him win his first title in 2008, proves it’s not the unluckiest place for the Brit.
As for Rosberg, his resilience is more than admirable. His fighting spirit to be on the ropes time and time again should be enough for us all to be cheering him on. The fact that, psychologically, he has come back from what must have been a very dark place, to now be in a position to tie up the Championship this weekend, is incredible.
If titles were given for perseverance, Rosberg would already be a champion. But while ‘A for effort’ is a worthy award, results are what matter at the highest level of sport. Will his persistence be enough to win him the title? We shall find out in the coming days and weeks.