x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rosberg looks to follow in his father's footsteps

Nico Rosberg hopes to challenge for victory in Monte Carlo to emulate his father's own success at the Circuit de Monaco in 1983.

Nico Rosberg, right, has had the better of Michael Schumacher since they became teammates at Mercedes GP.
Nico Rosberg, right, has had the better of Michael Schumacher since they became teammates at Mercedes GP.

Nico Rosberg can pinpoint the precise moment he knew he would race in Formula One.

He was 10 years old and riding shotgun with his father, Keke, in an open-topped touring car. The elder Rosberg, a former F1 world champion, was performing a lap of honour at Hockenheim to mark the end of his career in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series and Nico had went with him.

"We were sat up there on the roof of the car, waving, and we both had these driver's overalls on, and there was me the Mini-Rosberg and my dad the Maxi-Rosberg," he told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat shortly after winning the GP2 Series championship in 2005.

"The stands were full of people and the noise was deafening, it made you feel faint. I knew right then that one day I was going to be a successful driver, too."

"Maxi-Rosberg" won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1983 with Williams-Ford; "Mini-Rosberg" is this weekend hoping to do similar with Mercedes GP. But he refuses to add any additional importance to a race that is already high on his list of priorities.

"It would be great if we both won here," he said. "It would be special in its own way, without comparing it to my father in any way."

The reason it would be extra special for Rosberg, 25, is that while he was born in Germany to a Finnish father and German mother, he has lived in Monaco almost his entire life.

Rosberg speaks fluent German, French, Italian and English - and limited Finnish - and has said in the past that he has no sense of belonging to any one country. He prefers to label his nationality simply as "European". He drives under the German flag.

"The Monaco Grand Prix is always a thrilling weekend for me. It's my home race and to drive in front of my family and my friends is always very special," said Rosberg, who attended school in a building directly above the paddock in Monte Carlo. "The drive through the tunnel at 280 kph is always a real adventure - you are so close to the barriers that you can really feel how fast the cars actually are."

Rosberg has finished sixth in qualifying for the past three years and in 2009 converted his grid position into his best position at Circuit de Monaco: a sixth-place finish.

"Now it is time to make a big jump forward," he said as he targets a strong performance in today's qualifying session and tomorrow's 78-lap race.

"It is definitely possible as the qualifying from the past years I was quicker than where I eventually qualified, so if it all goes together, I think we will definitely be further forward. Then in the race, with a lot of pit-stops and everything this year with the tyres, anything is possible."

Recent performances, where he has outshone teammate Michael Schumacher, have left the paddock impressed, although he is still looking for that first race win after competing in 94 races.

Rosberg has out-qualified Schumacher in every race this season, and in 14 of last year's 19 races - a pretty dominant performance against the most successful driver in the history of F1.

Last season he became only the second driver to outscore Schumacher in the same car over a season, netting 142 points to his compatriot's 72.

To put Rosberg's achievement against Schumacher into context, the only other teammate of the seven-time world champion to beat him over a season was Eddie Irvine in 1999 when they were at Ferrari, and that year Schumacher missed seven races because of a broken leg.

"I see him on a par with [Sebastian] Vettel; all he lacks is a fast car," said Gerhard Berger, who worked with the reigning world champion Vettel in 2008, while at Toro Rosso.

In Barcelona last week Rosberg found himself behind his teammate and forced to challenge him on track.

Schumacher refused to relinquish his sixth place, but praised Rosberg's performance as they finished in sixth and seventh place.

"We had a couple of nice manoeuvres together, but I think we are both clever and smart enough to avoid collisions and still have fun on the track."

In Thursday's free practice, Rosberg again showed better pace than his teammate, finishing third fastest in both of the 90 minute sessions to give hope to a possible first appearance on the podium in the principality tomorrow afternoon.

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae