Rosberg adamant he can turn tables on team-mate
Nico Rosberg's rather wistful sense of history, his nostalgia for the past glories of motorsport, is not fully shared by his team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The world champion is so fully occupied with the urgent present, the vivid colours of now, that he is less inclined to glance in the rear-view mirror of time.
So in Stuttgart, as both drivers prepared for the opening of the Formula One season in Melbourne next weekend, it was Rosberg who was the more awe-struck beside the veteran and vintage Mercedes racing cars on display. "I love history," he said. "I love seeing the first Mercedes, the famous gullwing. I love the classic cars. I watch videos of Rudolf Caracciola racing in the '20s. I watched one the other day where the guy comes into the pits, they fire-extinguish the car, he jumps out, they throw water over him, he gets back in and his car breaks in two at the first corner and he goes off into the forest."
Unfortunately for Rosberg one senses that Hamilton will have to disappear into a forest with a broken car on a few occasions if the German is to be crowned F1 world champion. Rosberg, fast and excellent though he is, will still need a degree of unwitting collaboration from the three-time title winner if he is to seize the prize for himself over the coming eight months.
Hamilton's burgeoning appetite for the celebrity lifestyle has tempted many, including some former drivers, to suggest he could implode, and most great powers are ultimately defeated from within. Given that he is the fastest driver in the best car on the grid that would appear to be the best hope for the other 21 competitors.
Rosberg, however, does not quite see it that way. "His [distractions] haven't slowed him down in recent years," he says. "He has been driving at a very high level and not made mistakes, so there is no evidence it is going against him, so I must concentrate on my own thing." His own thing, he feels, might be enough. "There is the evidence that I can beat him on a string of occasions," he says. Indeed he won the last three races in 2015, as well as taking the last half-dozen poles.
"In 2014, it went to the last race and I led the way for a long time that season and it was very close. I need to hope that he doesn't have the awesome season he had last year, and that for me everything falls into place and I get everything out of it. But there is no magic bullet.
"I look forward to this battle with the world champion. He has beaten me for the past two years and he is the benchmark. That is what I am going for, and trust me, I will be fighting all the way."
Hamilton's speed and racing superiority fell away after he confirmed his second successive title in Austin in October. His aggressive racing that day, followed by an incident when he threw a cap at his team-mate, appeared to bring out a greater resolve in Rosberg.
"I have [a] positive mindset and I think he will be less confident because of what happened at the end of last season," says Rosberg. "I need to make sure his confidence doesn't go sky high as it did last year. I need to make sure I keep him nicely grounded. There are 21 races and you can't say the first one is a decider - it is not crucial." It hurt Hamilton and encouraged Rosberg when the champion went to Abu Dhabi in November with a keen desire to finish the year on a high, but failed to break his losing streak. But isn't Rosberg too nice, he was asked. Trying his best to look stern, he replies: "If Lewis does something wrong I will say it. I won't downplay it. Sometimes, I have maybe got it too wrong and played too safe, or like Spa when I was too aggressive.
"I don't know whether you can say [Hamilton] is more egotistical, it is just that in those areas he has done better finding a limit and not going over it. It is an area where I need to get better."
It is also thought that the reduction in the number of radio messages might help the harder working Rosberg. Ultimately, though, it is all about Hamilton's desire. If he really is determined to win again, and break his hero Ayrton Senna's record of three titles, it is difficult to see anyone stopping him. Including Rosberg.
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