musings and news on the world of F1
After seven seasons in F1 we’re still yet to see just how good Nico Rosberg really is. This season we’ll find out. Hamilton’s move to Mercedes could well prove to be Rosberg’s make-or-break season.
The same situation faced Jenson Button when he moved to McLaren. Many people thought that despite winning the world title the previous year after several disappointing seasons, Jenson would struggle to complete against his less-experienced but clearly talented teammate. The view was that Hamilton would simple outclass him. These expectations proved to be unfounded, with Jenson stepping up and proving that the previous year’s world title wasn’t a lucky one-off and that he was one of the best drivers on the grid. Three years later, now the most experienced driver competing, Jenson will lead the McLaren team through the 2013 season.
Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, has always clearly been a talented driver, achieving great results in the lower Formula series. But he’s never yet managed to live up to his F1 potential. Perhaps we expect too much from the second-generation F1 driver or perhaps, as with Jenson, he’s just not yet had the opportunity to show his true ability. Making his F1 debut in 2006 he spent four years with the Williams team during which he consistently achieved good midfield results, then for the 2010 season onwards moved to the new Mercedes team, finding himself partnered alongside returning F1 legend Michael Schumacher.
Many thought that Rosberg would be in the shadow of the former seven-time world champion, with Schumacher looking to continue from where he left off before his 2006 retirement. After three seasons in which both drivers suffered from under-competitive cars, Nico has shown that he has not just been able to keep up with Michael but actually outperform him. He even achieved his first ever F1 pole position and race win. It’s granted that Schumacher’s return has not been anywhere near as successful as he or anyone else expected, but we can’t take away Nico’s performances that surely have been spurred on as the result of being constantly compared to his teammate. Still though, niggling questions remain for some about whether or not he can be a top driver.
Now Schumacher’s retired (again) and Lewis Hamilton has jumped from McLaren to Mercedes, meaning Nico faces a new challenge and new comparisons to his teammate. Hamilton has established himself as one of the best drivers on the grid, and one of few able to achieve seemingly unreachable levels of F1 performance. Many expect that Hamilton will be the clear number one driver at Mercedes, even if it not officially stated that is the case, and that Rosberg will take a second-seat within the team. Nico needs to show that he can again rise to the challenge of overcoming the label of being second best.
The situation at Mercedes has the potential to turn into what we saw at Ferrari in the early 2000s. There’s a good chance that over the next few seasons we’ll see the Mercedes team build around Hamilton, as was the case at Ferrari with Schumacher, with a clear supporting number two driver in place. Rosberg could find himself stepping into the shoes of Barrichello. Now, let’s be clear, I’ve always been a huge of Rubens. I don’t mean to put down his long 19 year F1 career, highlighted by 11 wins and 68 podiums, but his successful six-year spell at Ferrari was tainted by clearly being the number two driver to Michael Schumacher. Twice a runner up, but never a world champion, as he deserved to be and was more than talented enough to achieve especially in a top car.
A decade later it seems we’ve reached that point with Rosberg – Nico’s career will soon take one of two directions. Either he’ll be able to drive toe-to-toe with Lewis, proving himself to those who still doubt his true skill, or he’ll be destined to settle into the second tier of drivers. How Nico does against Lewis this season will surely define the rest of Rosberg’s career – whether like Button he proves his talent and joins the likes of Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel at the top, or is just considered to be one of the ‘nearly-men’ of Formula One.