Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most. I was at the Autosport Awards at the weekend, having a beer with a colleague before descending into the Grosvenor’s Great Room when Nico Rosberg wandered past.
DEC 09th 2016
Thank Frankel It's Friday: Rosberg – a refreshingly humble champ
At least it looked like him and he had clasped in his hand a trophy big enough for a Formula 1 World Champion but… where was the entourage? Where were the security guards? Where, at least, were the hangers-on and acolytes without whom others would have refused to turn up? They were nowhere. It was just Nico, on his own save his trophy which he was clearly obliged to bring. I liked that.
I liked also the sincere, humble, gracious responses he gave when interviewed on stage, his refusal to badmouth Lewis Hamilton when many would say he had good cause – he said he ‘understood’ why Lewis behaved the way he did in the last race, which is some distance short of saying he actually agreed with it – and the sheer apparent modesty of the man. And I’ve never met anyone who knows him who didn’t like him, which is quite rare in F1 too.
But what I liked most came after he’d left the platform and done his backstage interviews. It was probably 15 minutes since he’d last been seen and the awards had moved on, but he had to return to his seat which involved walking straight through the middle of the Great Room, crossing from front to back. And instead of strutting like a peacock back to his seat, he crouched and ducked his way back to his table, hell bent on ensuring he obstructed as few people’s view of the stage for as small a period of time as humanly possible. It was a tiny courtesy, but because it was so clearly instinctive and made when the spotlight was anywhere else other than on him, I thought it significant.
As for why he retired when he did, I was as surprised as anyone by the news. On reflection, however I think it’s fairly simple: the truth I think not even Nico would deny is that Lewis is, all round, a fractionally quicker driver, and a better racer too. Rosberg’s championship saving move on Max Verstappen showed how brave he could be at the most critical of times, but over a season and all other things being equal, I think most people would expect Lewis to outpoint Nico most of the time. This season all other things were not equal and had the two Mercedes drivers enjoyed the same reliability records, it would be Lewis who’d have captured his fourth world title, rather than Nico his first.
So Rosberg would have calculated that while things went his way in 2016, the cards were probably unlikely to fall so fortuitously again and he was going to face a season chasing the Hamilton tail, all in the poisonous atmosphere that now sadly exists between the two. Or he could retire to Monaco with his young and growing family, more money than most of us could imagine and go down in history as an undefeated world champion.
What will he do now? I expect he’ll take a break but it would be great to see him in a sportscar sometime soon, where his consistency, speed and temperament would be ideally suited. The best sportscar teams are run like families in which team-mates work together towards a common goal. Completely anathema in Formula 1, it could be the kind of environment in which the talents of this still young, highly intelligent and personable racing driver are put to best use.
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.