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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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  • 1. At 8:36pm on 11 Sep 2010, Lord_Lancashire wrote:

    What a great bloke Nico Rosberg is! And I am so happy to see him continuing to do well. I've always liked him, ever since he set the fastest lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2006 - his debut race.

    He has well and truly flattened Michael Schumacher this year, and it is good to see. Rosberg deserves a better car than he's had with Williams and Mercedes, and I hope he gets a winner soon. He'll be a good champion.

    And too right on the happiness front! Folk never get enough of it.

    As Mr Fezziwig said in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" ;

    'When happiness comes along, be sure to give it a comfortable seat.'

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  • 2. At 9:19pm on 11 Sep 2010, BullRun wrote:

    Great to see Nico in F1, but I'm guessing his performance over Schumacher is down to MS not being able to test. Schumacher like Prost was a workaholic, always at the track trying to improve the car. The rules no longer allow Schuy those endless amounts of testing, and his results are showing..

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  • 3. At 11:12pm on 11 Sep 2010, Estesark wrote:

    Most people in Finland, including myself, wish Rosberg well. He races under the German flag, but that's okay. Apparently he's learning Finnish on top of those five languages you say he speaks, Sarah!

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  • 4. At 08:14am on 12 Sep 2010, ohh matron wrote:

    Always liked Rosberg. Just have a feeling he'll be champion one day. There's a professionalism about him that's been there since day one in F1. As Lord_Lancashire said above, he'll be a good champion.

    (Totally forgot he was Finnish.)

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  • 5. At 10:14am on 12 Sep 2010, Esteffect wrote:

    My fear for Rosberg is that, if Schumacher does stay on for the 2011 season, the car produced will be designed around his style, potentially leaving Rosberg out in the cold as a number two driver. They've got too much invested in Schumacher to work around Rosberg, and Schumacher is still much higher profile - That's even clear on BBC commentary, where he's often mentioned as the big name to go out in Q2, even if Rosberg is alongside him.

    That said, I think Rosberg has champion potential, especially as he seems to be like many drivers in being better in a good car. He wasn't much quicker than Nakajima in a slow one, but when the Williams was frequently in the points, he was far superior. This is a trait he shares with Kubica and Button, among others, so he's in a good club in that respect.

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  • 6. At 10:49am on 12 Sep 2010, Lord_Lancashire wrote:

    Good point made by Esteffect in comment (5).

    Indeed, the team was built around Michael Schumacher, but what they've found is Nico Rosberg has driven a lot better, and brought home a much bigger points haul.

    Now, you correctly point out that the car could well be built around Schumacher's driving style next year. However, BBC pundit Eddie Jordan did point out that a number of drivers have been seen walking in and out of the Mercedes motorhome, which is ominous. Furthermore, Murray Walker said a while back that Schumacher is unlikely to be kept on after this season unless improvements are made.

    It's still a blurry situation, especially as Schumacher himself often speaks of next season. I personally feel he's totally had his day.

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  • 7. At 11:10am on 12 Sep 2010, Mark Reynolds-Corden wrote:

    Like most of the other comments here, I have always followed Rosberg in F1 and really believe he could be a great driver given the right setting. Personally I'd love to see what he could do at Red Bull, I can really imagine him going far there.

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  • 8. At 11:16am on 12 Sep 2010, Spursguru-Dont break my Vaart my achy breaky Vaart wrote:

    No 13th team for next year + schumacher possibly leaving = Schumacher Racing Team?

    Or am I putting 1+1 together and getting 6?

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  • 9. At 11:30am on 12 Sep 2010, creebo wrote:

    Sorry to be pedantic but Schumacher has outqualified Rosberg at three races not two- Barcelona, Istanbul and Spa.

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  • 10. At 11:38am on 12 Sep 2010, VettelDRFC90 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 11. At 11:59am on 12 Sep 2010, VettelDRFC90 wrote:

    Why have I had my comment taken off? It was a valid point!

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  • 12. At 12:43pm on 12 Sep 2010, ArtMorte wrote:

    I would like to see either Rosberg or Kubica moving to Ferrari to replace Massa.

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  • 13. At 09:54am on 13 Sep 2010, Tim wrote:

    I actually had a little wager on Nico taking the world championship this year solely based on what I saw him do last year and an assumption that Ross Brawn could produce another winning car - perhaps that not such a good investment with hindsight, but I think my reasoning was sound. It was actually pretty clear, to anyone not wearing rose tinted classes, that Michael would struggle this year. Three years is a very long time, especially when you are on the wrong side of 40, and a lot has changed in the sport, mostly to his disadvantage. If Nico keeps his current seat, and I think he stands more chance of that than Michael does, I will probably place a similar bet on him next year too - I am sure he will be the world champion sooner rather than later!

    Thanks as always Sarah for a great blog. You never did say who actually ended up mopping up the tea?

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  • 14. At 3:40pm on 13 Sep 2010, Paddy Nesbitt wrote:

    Rosberg has certainly impressed this season, along side a much more experienced team mate. He's put in some good drives in the season so far and I'm sure, car providing, we'll see him take the top step of a podium in the future. On top of that he seems to be a nice bloke and always comes across well in his interviews.

    As ever with a story about Rosberg and/or Mercedes, people can't resist talking about the living legend Schumacher. I was quite dubious when I read the news reports of Schumacher signing for Mercedes as I felt he'd had his day in F1. I saw it as more of a marketing and sponsorship coup by Brawn and Mercedes but then I thought we may as well give the man a chance, right? Those who expected an 'old man' to jump in a F1 car again and put in stonking performances are off their trolley, if you'll beg my pardon. He was out of practice and the game changed since his time away - this season was always going to be a learning experience for him and we all know that car is far from the best. I disagree with Eddie Jordan's opinion that he'll retire again at the end of this season. I think he'll be on the grid next year, hopefully with a better car, a little wiser about the 'modern' F1 and raring to go.

    My then hope that young Rosberg can still continue to get the better of him!

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  • 15. At 4:11pm on 13 Sep 2010, Paul Dejong wrote:

    I agree completely with Paddy Nesbitt!
    Schumacher has signed on to try to make Mercedes a winning team again, like he did at Ferrari, al those years ago. And with his work ethos (unfortunately his 'track-ethos' is not always as spotless) and motivational skills, he can do that! (lead by example?)
    I do believe Nico Rosberg is one of the 3 best drivers of the new generation (together with Hamilton and Vettel) and although his record may not show the same high profile as the other two, he's quietly working away at it. I think, like Massa before him, he may benefit greatly from working alongside Michael.

    And one very adventurous thought: If Michael , together with Nico, can lift Mercedes up to be a championship-winning team, I do not even think he would be too disapointed even if Nico would be the one that did the winning... (but i don't think he would mind if it was him standing on the top step, don't get me wrong!)
    I think he want's to know 2 things:
    - Can I still 'build' a winning team? And with his record, this might very well be his primary reason for joining and competing again...after all: an 8 title would be welcome, but the accolade that he has forged 3 winning teams might give him even more status!
    - Do i still have what it takes to take on the new generation? He may very well find out that he doesn't...but hey, the guy is 41, and if he can still beat a couple of stellar 24 year old's...he would become even more of a legend. If he can't, he'll still be a 7 time world champion, but times catches up everybody!

    So, I think we're in for a couple of very interesting years!

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  • 16. At 07:38am on 14 Sep 2010, NICOFAN wrote:

    Nico has made the fewest mistakes of any top driver this year. No wild crashes like the red bulls, no race ending incidents like Mclaren, No strategic penalties like Ferrari. Just solid consistant racing ( which is what it takes ) Nico constantly outperforms Michael and yet.. The BBC Constantly passes over Nico to blow the Michael horn. Ross Brawn is pretty smart but if he designs around Michael instead of Nico, he is sure to loose next year as well. ( unless Nico just drives Michael's car faster than him..which is likely ) My money is on Nico next year for sure.

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  • 17. At 5:59pm on 14 Sep 2010, smallp wrote:

    Nico must be the nicest guy on the grid. Always smiling, he has shown that you don't have to be arrogant and overbearing to be dammed fast, and be a sucess. I wish him great sucess, and more importantly, the happiness he deserves.

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  • 18. At 8:39pm on 01 Jan 2011, Neville wrote:

    I don't believe Schumacher's claims that he is enjoying his return regardless of the fact that Nico is consistently faster than him. Schumacher is a proven racer and I believe that he will come out fighting in 2011. I, for one, can't wait!

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