Just over 15 years ago, there were these two young aspiring race drivers – one British, and one German. They travelled the world in each others company progressing through the ranks, whilst dreaming of the day that they would rise to Formula 1. One after the other they won the Formula 3 title, then later became GP2 champions, and soon that dream became reality.
One became world champion. One out-raced a seven time world champion. One is extremely highly rated, whilst the other is often under-estimated. But both play a big part in being one of the strongest driver line-ups to date, and one could well be on his way to winning the 2014 championship.
No, not him – or his dogs (that seem to travel just about everywhere), I am referring to Nico Rosberg. The forgotten one if you like, or more-so, the misjudged one.
The world took note of Schumacher’s fall in form, but perhaps what should have been made evident, was Rosberg’s rise in success. He was yet again cast in the shadows when his old friend Lewis Hamilton joined him at Mercedes, but despite that, he made his breakthrough.
The weekend that most assumed Sebastian Vettel would take his third win of the season, or Hamilton would show people how it’s done, but no. The other German who was on a small streak of pole positions was the one to take the limelight – 30 years after his father did the same thing – and he did so, in style.
2014s new regulations mean that drivers have to think much more than they have done before. Some will need to adapt to balancing out fuel consumption against tyre wear, against energy recovery; but juggling all of these components is something that comes naturally to Nico. He’s an intelligent racer in that respect. He knows that pushing too hard this year could prove costly, and that patience could be key.
The Mercedes duo work effectively because they are two very different drivers, and you can rely on them both to produce good, solid results. But this year Rosberg may have the upper hand. His precision and tactical approach may work in his favour, and match him with a competitive car and you could have a big threat to Vettel’s dominance.
However, if Vettel can’t get the respect that he truly deserves whilst he’s just braking records for the sake of it, what chance does Rosberg have of making his mark?
Apparently, none. But Rosberg has nothing to lose, he just has a lot to gain, and therefore won’t succumb to any type of pressure. He’s a pinpoint kind of driver. He envisions the circuit and works out where his car needs to be in what corner to set a good lap. He knows exactly what he wants from his car, and how he wants it to behave. And despite Mercedes being a multi-national team, Rosberg is able to speak to any engineer in their native language as he speaks five fluently – German, English, Spanish, Italian and French. Versatility at its best.
He’s sharp and very aware of his surroundings, because he’s a technical racer; unlike those around him who use the aggressive approach. But he also understands that every point matters, and that there is no need for silly mistakes – especially if the double point rule goes ahead. Reliability is the thing of most concern, and if the Mercedes car is able to finish every race, then whose to say they won’t be fighting right at the front?
Vettel is beatable, and Rosberg knows that. He has the intelligence to out-smart him, the ability to match him, and maybe, the car to beat him. A recipe for a champion, no? Taking his dad’s championship car number may be the extra bit of luck he needs, and if he takes all this and gives it more, this year could be very interesting.
Those who underestimate you, are the ones who don’t know what you are capable of.