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Anthony Rowlinson

Why Rosberg would be a worthy champ

The trouble with this year’s world championship – from a British perspective at least – is the nationalities of the key protagonists.

Nico Rosberg, cast since 2014 as the battling underdog to Lewis Hamilton’s mercurial megastar, should, of course, have been ‘The Brit’. Lewis, meantime, should have been ‘The Foreigner’.

Then, in a flash, we’d have had a narrative that better suited their respective abilities, and with which the mainstream media would have been more comfortable. Rosberg could have played ‘Our Nico’, indomitably plugging away at a superior rival.

The masses could have demonised Lewis for his occasional petulance, while grudgingly acknowledging his routine and often breathtaking brilliance. It would have been a modern re-run of Mansell against Senna, or Hill vs Schumacher. Island nation against tricksy foe: outcome uncertain; plucky opposition guaranteed.

Instead, the message from central casting got garbled, and it’s ‘The Brit’ who’s exceptional – so much so that Hamilton was poised, at the time of writing, ahead of the Brazilian GP, to become the second most successful F1 driver ever, in terms of wins, with only Michael Schumacher ahead of him.

Rosberg, notwithstanding the nine wins he has clocked up this year, remains cast as ‘The Trier’ – the doughty puncher gifted enough to pick up a victory when his main rival is compromised and sometimes, even, to surpass the efforts of his more starry opponent. But no one thinks he’s truly worthy of being crowned champion ahead of Hamilton… do they?

That, dear reader, is where I draw the line, for in Nico Rosberg I see a highly talented, exceptionally intelligent, astoundingly resilient driver and sportsman who, should he prevail over Lewis, will have pulled off one of Formula 1’s most remarkable turnarounds. Battered and bruised by Hamilton throughout the hybrid F1 era, Rosberg has simply refused to yield, let alone capitulate.

One abiding memory of the 2014 championship was Rosberg’s ‘rage against the dying of the light’ at the double-points Abu Dhabi decider. He was the rank outsider for the title, but while there was a chance – while he was still afloat – he kept on swimming. One by one the electrical systems on his W05 began to fail: first the ERS, then other ancillaries, leaving Rosberg underpowered, underbraked and ultimately unable to halt Hamilton’s imperious march to an 11th victory and a second world title. Ignoring calls to retire, Nico barked at his team: “I want to go to the end.” And so he did, trailing home 14th, lapped, pointless, beaten.

Beaten… but not broken, for in 2015 he fought again to similar effect, and this year he has once more ‘gone to the end’. And for that reason, for sheer dauntless strength of character, I would raise a glass to champion Rosberg, even while acknowledging the genius sans pareil of Lewis Hamilton.