Friday, 22 April 2016

#F1 – Nico Rosberg deserves his early season success

It wasn't that long ago that I was beginning to think Nico Rosberg – talented racing driver though he undoubtedly is – would never win a Formula 1 World Championship.  It wasn't because he wasn't good enough (he quite clearly was) or had the right car – Mercedes GP has been the team to beat over the past few seasons.  But so often recently, he just hasn't quite seemed to have the ruthless 'edge' that a true champion needs.

Rosberg's success in the early part of this year is all the more remarkable because of this.  We are talking about a driver who has spent most of the last two years living and racing in the shadow of one of F1's most flamboyant and polarising characters – and one of its most naturally aggressive and stylish wheel-to-wheel racers – in Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.  There is no question in my mind that, psychologically, this will have taken its toll on Rosberg.

Even in the final races of last season, when we were treated to a small preview of the Rosberg dominance that was to follow in 2016, it would've been easy to dismiss the German's six consecutive pole positions and three wins as being the result of Hamilton's subconsciously relaxing sightly having already secured his third world title.

But this year, with the scores reset, and everything up for grabs, Rosberg has been quickest out of the blocks in the first few races of the season.  A hat-trick of wins has allowed him to stamp his authority on the 2016 season right from the start.

Slow to start, and plagued by reliability issues, Hamilton has already slipped to a thirty-six points behind his team-mate, and with a whole lot of work to do already just to claw back that deficit and be in a position to defend his Championship title.

There will, of course, be plenty who are still to be convinced by Rosberg's credentials as a potential World Champion – and the job is far from done, despite his blistering start this year.  Expect Lewis Hamilton to fight back, as any great racer would, and expect Rosberg to have his own fair share of technical difficulties; this is not over yet, by any means.

But I think it is to Rosberg's credit that he has refused simply to play second fiddle to Hamilton for a third year running.  I wrote last year (in what is, incidentally, one of my most-read Formula 1 posts ever!) that, having been beaten to the title by his team-mate once, Rosberg looked as if he felt like a 'number two driver', and that translated to racing like one; I said he needed to rediscover his faith in his own abilities.

He is making a strong statement now that he has done that – that he is more than just a 'number two driver', but someone who has confidence in who he is and his own style of driving once again.  Now, he is out to show his critics that he does have 'what it takes' to challenge for supremacy within the team, and ultimately, to be a Champion – and I, for one, find that seriously impressive after so much time spent barely being able to get close to Hamilton.

All of which is setting up a very interesting situation for this season's racing.  And what could be better than that?  Well, to end on one of my constant refrains about racing – the best bit of all is that it is real, not artificially created in a lab by Bernie Ecclestone and his nefarious henchmen engineering the situation.  Thank heavens for that!

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