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Rosberg emerges from Schumacher's shadow

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Sarah Holt | 18:03 UK time, Saturday, 11 September 2010

In the pampered world of Formula 1, it is not the norm to hear a driver offering to mop up a spilt cup of tea.

Neither is it usual to arrange to interview a driver only to find them intent on turning the tables by asking their own questions.

"I am a demanding person to interview," said Nico Rosberg, pondering the pool of tea I had knocked onto the pristine floor of the Mercedes motorhome.

"If people are interested [in me], I'm happy enough to let them know, but don't you think people would be more interested in you?"

Nico Rosberg driving ahead of Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher

Rosberg outqualified Schumacher at the Hungarian Grand Prix (Picture: Getty images)

Rosberg can hardly be blamed for wanting to maintain a low profile.

The 25-year-old arrived in Formula 1 four years ago with the 'son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg' tag, which he underlined by joining his Dad's former stable at Williams.

This season he is under an even greater shadow, that of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who came out of retirement to join his German compatriot at Mercedes.

"That was definitely a bit of a surprise," smiled Rosberg, who signed exactly a month before Schumacher.

But now Rosberg has got the better of his 41-year-old team-mate. He has out-qualified Schumacher in all but two races and finished below him in just three - and is again ahead of him on the Italian Grand Prix grid. And Rosberg is at last carving a reputation of his own.

"I measure myself against Michael because he's my team-mate," said Rosberg, who first raced against Schumacher as a teenager, finishing third to his second in a go-kart race.

"I'm happy if I can be in front of him but I have to try not to take these things on board too much.

"If I think 'I'm compared against Michael but apparently he says he is not the driver he was' - which I don't think he does say - it'll make me go crazy.

"I don't want to do that. I want to do well with the team, get a good car, win races and see where my team-mate is.

"If he is behind me, good; if he is in front of me then I need to work harder."

Rosberg's rise has been frustrated by the team's failure to convert last season's championship-winning Brawn into a lightning-quick Silver Arrow.

Despite taking the final podium spots in Malaysia, China and Britain, Rosberg is eighth in the standings, two points behind Renault's Robert Kubica.

"It has been a disappointment, yes. My results are disappointing. It's worse than last year, when I was seventh with Williams."

"I joined the team to win the championship this year. But I'm confident we can do better, don't you agree? Don't you believe in us?"

And so we are back to Rosberg's table-turning interrogation.

There is a sense that Rosberg's playful inquisition and dry sense of humour belie a desire to show he is not a carbon-copy F1 driver - that, and to defy the nickname 'Britney', after Ms Spears, which was given to him by his peers because of his blond hair, good looks and fashionable clothes.

"I've had better nicknames," laughed Rosberg, who speaks five languages. "But if they want to call me that it's fine. There are a lot of pleasurable sides about our job and there is fun that you can get out of it.

"It is as if you are the CEO of a great company at the age of 20; you are pushed into it and you get on with it. You learn to cope and it's a great experience for life.

"Take Ross [Brawn], how much have I learned from him about how to get the best out of people and how to build relationships? It's very valuable.

"I'm a happy person. It's a very difficult thing to achieve."

And, if he could choose between winning the world championship or happiness?

"Happiness," he decides. "I've actually made it one of my goals."


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