The dust has settled finally on the ‘Duel in the Desert’ in Abu Dhabi which crowed Nico Rosberg the 2016 Formula 1 World Champion. The emotions have eased off, the tempers have died down, hangovers have been dealt with and people have finally stopped asking what Mercedes will do with Lewis Hamilton.
It is in this setting that Nico Rosberg will ‘officially’ be crowned the 2016 World Champion by the FIA at a glittering ceremony; this is the moment Rosberg has been striving for his entire life.
Rockstar vs The Rock
Shortly before the championship deciding race, Rosberg uploaded a video dedicated to his parents. It showed a young Nico karting around as his father Keke worked on the kart, timed his laps and finally helped an exhausted Nico clean up afterwards. ‘Nico Rosberg, World Champion’ has been a lifelong family project for the Rosbergs, a dream that has finally been realised.
Nico Rosberg makes for an unusual world champion. If you ask fans to remember his most memorable races, most draw blanks. In comparison to his teammate and title-challenger Lewis Hamilton, he has never been too highly rated for his driving skills or his raw talent. But what Rosberg does bring to the table is consistency, commitment, and focus. He is not the fastest or the most flamboyant, but he gets the job done anyway. Lewis Hamilton may be the rockstar, but Nico Rosberg is the rock. Remarkably, Nico has seldom pinned his poor performance onto external factors, taking things in his stride without too much of a fuss.
The two men in Nico’s life
There are two men who have had a deep influence on Nico, the racer. The first is his father, Keke Rosberg, who won the World Championship in 1982. Keke is the proverbial ‘cool guy,’ with a swinging moustache and razor sharp wit. All through his career, Nico carried the burden of his famous last name. Critics shamed him relentlessly for having it “too easy” or being born with a “silver spoon.” Nico was subject to endless comparisons and derision, constantly trying to come out of his father’s shadow. Given how high pressure the world of F1 already is, even the slightest bit of extra pressure can wreak havoc in the mind of a racer. This is why Keke moved away from the public eye in 2010, deciding to not attend races or do public interviews.
The second man who has had a profound influence on Nico’s career is none other than Lewis Hamilton, a man Nico had known since they raced each other in karts. Lewis vs Nico has been an intense rivalry spanning over decades. However Lewis, known to be one of the quickest drivers ever, has beaten Nico time and time again in every championship they’ve raced together in. When they became teammates at Mercedes, fighting for top honours in the sport, the rivalry became harsh, public, and at times downright ugly. Lewis took the championship in 2014 and 2015 (and honestly, he was the far better driver). Despite all the losses, Nico refused to accept the title of the No 2 driver (or simplistically speaking, the loser.) And that is the mentality of a champion, striving for victory no matter what.
If you’ve ever played a video game, you will be familiar with the idea of the hero having to fight his ultimate enemy, in the last stage before he emerges victorious. Abu Dhabi was exactly that for Nico – having to face his most bitter rival, Lewis, who he has struggled to beat in an outright wheel-to-wheel battle before. It was a race that was more a test of strength than speed. When Lewis hugged a victorious Nico at Parc Femme after the race, both probably knew that a lifetime of scores had been settled at last.
2017 is going to see Nico Rosberg racing as a champion, rather than a challenger. He doesn’t have anything to prove anymore, and that is going to do wonders to his confidence levels. On that note, mark our words – the Rosberg vs Hamilton battle in 2017 is going to be the bloodiest yet. And lastly, will having two World Champion drivers in the team create more headaches for the Mercedes management? Well, as long as they entertain the fans.
PS: Here's a Nico Rosberg interview from way back in 2011, when he was India for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.