Poor Nico Rosberg. The guy just can’t catch a break.
When he’s winning three grands prix to close out a season of underperformance, it’s because Lewis Hamilton has spent too much time partying in Los Angeles and London.
When he began this campaign with similar clinical consistency, including victory at the Bahrain GP where he had just two podium finishes from nine previous races, it’s due to the Englishman’s apparent lack of focus.
When he matches Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel by becoming only the fourth driver in history to claim seven consecutive chequered flags, it’s down to an apparent conspiracy within Mercedes to sabotage Hamilton’s chances.
Even when he’s winning, Rosberg seems to be losing; forever fighting for acceptance and credibility on the F1 landscape.
Clearly, Hamilton’s dominance over the three full seasons the former karting team-mates have been pitted together in the Silver Arrows – from 2013-2015 the Brit has outpointed him 954 to 810 – has had an effect.
For several years now, Rosberg has been cast as the spoilt, aloof rich kid to Hamilton’s determined street-fighting man. The nouveau riche son of a former F1 champion born into luxury in the palacial surroundings of Monaco against the kid from the mean streets of Stevenage.
It’s a narrative Hamilton has been happy to fuel. In July 2014, he claimed Rosberg wasn’t really German, due to his gilded upbringing in the Principality. While Rosberg has been seemingly destined to match the career path of his father Keke; Hamilton has slummed it and had to do it the hard way.
Hamilton said, in what could be interpreted at the time as mind games but also reveal an attitude that obviously prevails, said: “I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment and Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things, so the hunger is different.”
The reality is that without any hunger, Rosberg simply wouldn’t be in F1. Even with his connections and guidance from Keke, the lack of an inner desire to be one of 20 drivers on the world’s most exclusive grid wouldn’t get him anywhere near professional motorsport.
That said, a fire has been stirred in Rosberg, as his results speak for themselves. Because you can only defeat what’s in front of you, and while the critics may carry an asterisk against his name, he’s beaten the rest of the field emphatically.
Admittedly helped by Mercedes’ efficiency – at least in his car – but he’s taken the opportunities presented to him, winning four straight races by an average of 20 seconds. He’s led for 186 of a possible 223 laps across Australia, Bahrain, China and Russia; a monster 83.41 per cent efficiency. The next closest driver to him is Sebastian Vettel with 31 laps or 13.9 per cent.
The 30-year-old is the first driver since Michael Schumacher 12 years ago to win the first four races of the season. A pertinent fact because each time that run has been put together – Ayrton Senna in 1991, Nigel Mansell in 1992, and Schumacher in 1994 and 2004 – they went on to win the world title.
Hamilton will come back at him, while Ferrari – and in particular Vettel’s form – have to improve. Both men are multiple world champions and, unlike Rosberg, know how to get the job done.
To end the talk of privilege and a lack of hunger, Rosberg has to be even more ruthless. He can play the role of an empathetic team-mate but, in reality, he should be revelling in Hamilton’s plight.
Because if he doesn’t get over the line this year, the caricature of a driver too financially comfortable to be properly competitive and subsequently lacking the requisite mental strength to be ‘a champion’, may be set in stone forever.
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