#360view: Nico Rosberg deserves title

Sport360's Steve McKenlay looks at Lewis Hamilton's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gamesmanship on the day Nico Rosberg held his nerve to seal a first Formula One world title.

Steve McKenlay
by Steve McKenlay
27th November 2016

article:27th November 2016

All's well in the end: Rosberg and Hamilton.
All's well in the end: Rosberg and Hamilton.

The tyre smoke from Nico Rosberg’s victory doughnuts on the main straight after winning his first world title at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit was still hanging in the air when the debates began.

Is Rosberg a worthy champion? Was Lewis Hamilton bang out of order and unsporting for slowing up and backing his team-mate into the clutches of Ferrari and Red Bull, as I suggested he might on Sunday, and did Mercedes do their best to ensure they got a German world champion?

Let’s deal with Rosberg first. He is clearly the king of cool and proved beyond all doubt, particularly during the last ten laps of Sunday’s race when he was put under extreme pressure by Hamilton’s tactics, that he has matured and is not easily rattled.

He also managed the advantage he found himself with heading into the home straight of the season supremely well, particularly in Brazil when he had to finish second, doing just enough to keep Hamilton at bay and get the job done.

Overall, it was a nicely judged, calculated performance. It is also worth remembering that he had finished second to Hamilton twice in succession, in heart-breaking fashion in 2014 and last year, and yet never let his head go down in belief that he would never get the better of his teammate. He dug in, showed brilliant resiliance and finally got his reward – ending the two year reign of the man he himself describes as the benchmark.

It has to be said though that Hamilton was extremely unlucky with the number of engine problems and mechanical failures on his car. He won more races that Rosberg and without those problems would have won his fourth title.

And strangely, the pit crew he had last season was moved to Rosberg’s garage for this campaign. However, Formula One is a mechanical sport and as such failures come with the territory and the title race did go to the wire so any suggestions of a conspiracy to ensure the German manufacturer got a home grown hero seem a little far fetched. Either that, or it was a risky strategy that was magnificently organised.

But at the end of the day all this speculation, and that is all it is, is unfair on Rosberg who has dreamed of emulating his father Keke, champion in 1982, since he was a child and worked hard to achieve that ambition.

So does winning the title make him the best driver? Absolutely not. As I said earlier, he managed his situation superbly well, but he is still not in the same league as Hamilton. And that’s why I find all the fuss about the Brit slowing up and backing his title rival into the clutches of Ferrari and Red Bull with claims of unsporting behaviour absolutely laughable.

The difference between good Formula One drivers, which Rosberg clearly is, and great drivers is something called killer instinct, a selfish ruthless streak, and more than a little petulance, that motivates this elite group of men to try every conceivable tactic, sometimes controversial, to ensure victory.

What Hamilton did in one final attempt to stop Rosberg winning the title proved that he is among that group of greats. How can it be unsporting to put your rival under pressure, within the rules, in the hope that it guarantees he loses and you win? It’s sport and despite what some schools teach kids these days it’s winning that matters, not just competing.

F1 is boring enough at the moment without taking competitive drama out of races. Mercedes were wrong to tell Hamilton to speed up and ask him what he was going so slowly. They knew exactly why he had taken his foot off the gas and he had every right to try everything he could to retain his crown.

For Toto Wolff to later accuse him of anarchy for refusing to obey team orders is a joke. And, by the way, Rosberg dealt with it supremely well. Look back over the history of F1 and there are far worse examples of true legends resorting to dirty tricks to stop their rivals.

Rosberg may not be a legend and I don’t believe he ever will be, but the German won nine of the 21 races and is world champion and that, in itself, is a major achievement. He is not the first champion to benefit from his team-mate’s misfortune and so I say, yes, Rosberg is a worthy 33rd holder of the F1 drivers’ crown.