News and views on motorsports

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nico Rosberg

Amidst all the hype surrounding Lewis Hamilton, spare a thought for the 2005 GP2 champion Nico Rosberg. Nico had a great debut race last year, finishing in the points and taking the fastest lap of the race. From then on, his results had largely gone downhill. Sometimes the fault lay with him but in large part it coincided with the worst ever season for Grove in grand prix racing.

This year, Nico looks like he's having a far better time. The Williams of course is no match for the Ferraris or McLarens up front but against cars of similar (or even slightly better) performance, Nico has been doing a splendid job. Both in my Indy awards and in the official FIA standings, Nico is currently the top independent team driver.

In the Indy Awards, Nico has had a couple of wins, a second and a fourth position. The last comes despite having failed to finish in Malaysia, through no fault of his own. Whilst the Red Bulls are looking increasingly quick they haven't had the reliability. In the Indy points standing, Nico has a massive lead and if you follow the Wag The Dog points, you can see that he eats the works Toyotas for breakfast, consistently faster and finishing ahead of them.

All things being equal, its easier being in a quicker car than an average or bad one. Narain Karthikeyan for instance was absolutely amazed at the ease with which the Williams can be driven as compared to the Jordan he was used to. Likewise, I am certain the latest McLaren is better balanced and has limpet like grip compared to the Williams. Thus, Hamilton up front has a far easier time and its easy to praise his successes, considerable though it may be.

However, Nico has a year's experience under his belt and that experience has been hard won on the back of a terrible season for Williams. With those hard times, comes maturity in addition to the raw speed and natural talent. Something that Hamilton has yet to exhibit, for he hasn't had the need to, lucky sod that he is.

God knows if Williams will ever make the necessary quantum leap required to once again challenge for honours at the front but should McLaren or Ferrari require a new driver (not that they really need it right now) then they could do worse than Nico. In fact, if BMW were smart and the time came to replace Nick Heidfeld then their former driver would be a most excellent choice. Its one thing having an exciting hotshoe like Sebastien Vettel in the car. But for the overall package, I think Nico represents an excellent choice.

I do hope however that Williams, now with Toyota power behind them are able to rally in the next few years to give Nico Rosberg the car that he deserves. Inevitably one does compare drivers to that standard benchmark called Michael Schumacher and it would be interesting to see if Nico can develop some of the leadership skills that Michael possesses to lead the Williams team to glory once again. Tall order but not impossible.

Whatever it is, Nico deserves a chance at the big time as much as Hamilton does.

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