When the teams returned to the circuit after the mandatory summer break in August this year, there was a lot of expectation riding on Nico Rosberg.
Though he wasn’t exactly expected to halt a relentless Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull in their tracks, nobody ever imagined the Mercedes driver would taper off as tamely as he did after the teams resumed battle in Belgium. Rosberg was woefully off the pace and his two victories before the break, in Monaco and Great Britain, seemed like a distant dream.
Rosberg, however, maintained that the W04s were as competitive as any other cars on the grid, “barring probably the Red Bulls.”
We were struck by plain bad luck, combined with Red Bull Racing’s tremendous performance in the second half of the season,” said the 28-year-old Mercedes driver, who had arrived in New Delhi early for a promotional event (‘Race Off with Nico’), organised by his sponsor Puma.
Rosberg then hastened to add: “As is normally thought of in the circuit, we absolutely have no other problems.”
When the interview veered round to his teammate Lewis Hamilton — who has also been struggling like Rosberg after the summer break — and the kind of relationship he shares with the 2008 world champion, the German was quick with his riposte.
“He’s a very good friend. We were teammates and shared hotel rooms during our karting days. We have tense moments between us though when we get very competitive, but that’s part of the game. It is nice having Lewis as teammate.”
Incidentally, Hamilton and Rosberg are unofficially ranked as the strongest team on the circuit today.
The Schumacher factor
He simply can’t resist singing paeans about his former teammate Michael Schumacher. “It was a great experience driving alongside Michael. I could really see why he was the seven-time World champion. What is great about Michael is his discipline; a great learning experience for me.
He has been one of the reasons why we have so many drivers from Germany in Formula One. Such has been his influence.”
The Red Bull-Vettel march in the second-half of the season has been remorseless. Rosberg, however, refused to accept that the domination of one team had undermined Formula One this season.
He then drove home his point with a series of questions: “Forget what’s happening in front. Vettel may be out there in the front all alone, but aren’t you seeing what’s happening just behind him? Aren’t the contests between drivers behind him interesting? The crowds are enjoying it, right?”
The year 2014 is crucial for Formula One with the advent of a new powerplant (V6 coming in place of V8), ERS (energy recovery system) and new rules. Rosberg, who is sixth in the drivers’ standings with 126 points, 171 points adrift of leader Vettel, termed it a “level field.”
“It would shuffle things around and we (Mercedes) are fully prepared for the change,” he said.