Mercedes F1 driver Nico Rosberg has finally won his first F1 championship in his third year in contention. After a nearly flawless season, the German driver is well deserving of the title despite the number of technical failures to teammate and triple world champion Lewis Hamilton’s car. Rosberg did everything he needed to do in the end to clinch the championship in Abu Dhabi.
The final battle between the teammates came down to a witty race from Lewis Hamilton, who backed up the field while leading the race from start to finish. While some thought Hamilton’s tactics were unfair and unorthodox, his plan to make life harder for Rosberg by allowing the other cars to battle with him was his last resort to keep his title hopes alive. It was an exciting end to the season, with tensions running high and Hamilton receiving angry radio messages from Paddy Lowe and the Mercedes pit-wall.
Upon winning his one and only world driver’s championship, Rosberg retired in the weeks after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Shocking news to many considering his age (just 31 years old) and his success in previous years. Rosberg was definitely at his prime in his career, which is why it is odd for him to step away from the sport. So the drama continues at Mercedes with a new seat to fill, with Valtteri Bottas looking to be the favorite. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s look back and honor Rosberg’s F1 career.
Coming into the sport as the son of a previous F1 world champion in his father Keke, Rosberg had big shoes to fill. He showed promise from a young age, taking karting championships in Europe and progressing through the junior categories. But when he got to F1 he impressed right from his first start. At the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix Rosberg scored points for Williams and achieved the fastest lap of the race, no slouch if you ask me. Rosberg was quick and witty, often times far too aggressive for the liking of Fernando Alonso (Bahrain 2012) and Lewis Hamilton (Spain 2016 and Austria 2016). But these instances showed Rosberg was a real racer, defensive minded and testing the limits. As Rosberg changed gears moving to Mercedes he stuck out the hard times and was rewarded in 2013 and 2014 with a competitive car, finally. But unfortunately Rosberg was left in the shadows of superstar Lewis Hamilton. Lewis was quicker, had less reliability issues, and remained the driver that was found in tabloids and gossip magazines. Lewis remained relevant, Nico did not. But when Mercedes began their domination in 2014, the odd’s were against Nico, and quite frankly, the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a completely unfair ending to a season that deserved to be a straight fight to the end. Nico’s car was plagued with issues and Lewis ran away with the title.
On came 2015 and it was dominated by Hamilton, who went into every race with the confidence that he could win. Rosberg was weaker mentally and the mistakes showed at the United States Grand Prix when he threw away the title via an unforced error. But 2016 was a whole new season for Rosberg and clear change in mental attitude was shown by the German. He wanted to win and he took each race separately, not focusing on the larger title at hand. Rosberg did exactly what he needed to do he won races, finished on the podium the times he didn’t, and defended hard all the way until the end. Granted, Lewis suffered from technical issues and even won more races, but Rosberg showed level headedness that hadn’t been seen before. Rosberg had a championship mentality.
Nico’s retirement from the sport is saddening because the rivalry between he and Lewis is now over. The battle warranted a lot of drama and one of the best races in history (Bahrain 2014). Nico will be missed in F1 and after 10 years in the sport he has surely made his mark. Congratulation Nico Rosberg on a fantastic career and becoming 2016 World Champion.