I was reading an article over at AUTOSPORT this morning regarding Nico Rosberg and his approach to battling Lewis Hamilton for the world championship this year. Mainly, the question was put to Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff, about how Rosberg seems to putting up a weak fight.
Wolff says he doesn’t see it that way:
“The way I see him and the way I feel where he is, he has not given up,” said Wolff.
“There is no way a driver will give up unless it is not mathematically possible any more. This is what I see in Nico’s case, with his character.
“Of course, we try to maintain a good relationship in the team and not have any animosity and sometimes when a driver appears to be nice it is seen as a weakness, but it is not that at all.”
From my vantage point, Ben Anderson and Ian Parkes are right in their story because I can draw a straight line from the Belgian Grand Prix last year, when Nico was punished internally at Mercedes for daring to touch Hamilton’s left-rear tire at Spa, and his driving style today in which he is muscled off the track at Japan and beaten comprehensively ever since.
I’m no Mercedes insider but I feel like the day the team punished and publicly eviscerated him for driving hard and not yielding to Hamilton at Spa Francorchamps was the day they took the stuffing out of him.
What I like about Lewis Hamilton is what he displayed at Japan last week. He’s not in F1 to tiptoe around his teammate or be accommodating to their title hopes or potential for race wins. He’s there to take victory and title himself and he’s aggressive in that pursuit. Just like Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and even Alonso.
If Nico were aggressive, given the domination they currently have in the points over rivals to survive a DNF, he may have not lifted and driven off track to allow Lewis to take the lead. I feel that if he would have done that, he would been castigated by the legion of Hamilton fans and met with harsh rebuke from Mercedes. Makes you wonder if this team is really the best option for Nico long term. If he’s willing to play the Rubens Barrichello, then yes it is.
I said last year that Nico had one choice after Spa, he could humbly take a back seat and play the scolded dog or he could decide that his title hopes are more important than being able to take a bum whipping by Mercedes for daring to challenge and not yield to Hamilton. I think we know what he chose.
I like Nico a lot and think that he has the speed and talent to win titles given the car he’s currently in. I’m just not sure he or Mercedes are in a place mentally to allow him to do that and actually get aggressive with Hamilton which could result in more Spa-like results.
When it is all said and done, I get the feeling that Nico is driving for a team that definitely comes first over his personal aspirations as a driver. Right now, they seem to be aligned with Lewis’s personal ambitions but I get the feeling that’s less to do with playing favorites and more to do with Lewis’s ability to perform and work the team to his will. That’s the sign of a champion, that’s what I like about Lewis and what I would like to have seen in Nico. Now that would be an epic Mercedes teammate battle like Prost vs. Senna.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT via Ben Anderson and Ian Parkes