Oops! He did it again
Bahrain International Circuit, mid-afternoon, Thursday 11th March 2010, and here comes Nico.
With his shuffling, almost lazy-looking gait, the (significantly) younger of Mercedes’ two F1 pilots is making his way across the Sakhir paddock.
Turning to say hello to a few photographers nearby, Nico looks as relaxed as could be.
Smiling while shaking hands, I offer a cheery line to start the new season:
“Nico, I want you to destroy that old man.”
Looking me straight in the eye and with no hesitation, he calmly but seriously responds, “I will.”
Three years on and with Michael Schumacher’s ‘second’ F1 career consigned to the history books, Rosberg is facing a new – and far tougher – challenge.
Sitting in the other Silver Arrow isn’t a man way past his prime, no, rather the guy many believe to be the quickest of the quick.
Lewis Hamilton has arrived.
What a stark contrast these two young men appear to be. Nico is all brooding northern European with a dash of Mediterranean panache, the hair, the looks, the lifestyle. He seems very content with his lot.
Lewis – well Lewis is Lewis, isn’t he. We all know he’s got talent to burn, is as fast as they come, a world champion, and in a winning car with an employer who will indulge him all his desires.
Girlfriend Nicole looking pretty on his arm, rapping homies in tow, and now even a dog called Roscoe to fuss over, Lewis has it all, right?
Not all going to script, is it?
Rosberg on pole for the last three grands prix and triumphant on the streets of Monte Carlo. Wasn’t that supposed to be Hamilton’s screenplay?
Up and down the F1 paddock, many an 'expert' is starting to re-evaluate their opinion of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg’s 27-year-old son.
When he arrived at Williams for the 2006 campaign, Nico’s mechanics and his team-mate Mark Webber quickly christened him ‘Britney’ (after big-at-the-time popstar Britney Spears). The German’s flowing locks of blond hair and constant preening didn’t sit comfortably with the super-serious, engineering-led, Grove-based crew.
Looks, of course, can be deceiving.
Prior to his title-winning 2005 GP2 season, Rosberg declined an offer from Imperial College London to study Aeronautical Engineering and, as all new Williams drivers had done before, Nico took the team’s Engineering Aptitude Test, passing with the highest score in the team’s history.
The widely held view was that Nico amounted to little more than a strong number two driver, very capable of backing up a genuine F1 superstar and scoring a point or three, but unlikely to trouble the guys at the sharper end of the grid.
As we all know, he grew up in a privileged environment, sometimes appearing unaware that not all are so fortunate.
At one Paddock Club gathering I photographed a few years back, the (wealthy) guests and sponsors present were quizzed as to the identity of their first car. Answers ranged from a beaten-up Mini to a rusting Fiat Panda, from clapped-out Beetles to broken-down Datsuns.
Modesty was the tone.
Not Nico. He proudly informed one and all that his maiden ride was a top-of-the-line road rocket – an Audi RS6…
Time and age have been kind to the two-times grand prix winner. With his calm persona, and a certain cool and likeable charm, Rosberg has many F1 years still ahead of him.
Likely on to a good thing, Mercedes are the ‘coming’ team with the resource, the talent, the backing and the desire to be a genuine F1 super team. 2013 is going to plan and 2014 could be even better.
With his star rising at every race, Nico is earning new respect from all those who once doubted his talent – and guess what?
No one calls him Britney any more!