Nico Rosberg must be a relieved man after getting the elusive first Grand-Prix win of his career. It took a long time coming, just like the man he led home, Jenson Button. While Button had to go through a nose dive in his team’s form before he could stake a claim at the World Championship, let’s hope Rosberg’s future isn’t as tumultuous.
It was a dream weekend for the Mercedes GP driver. It started with a flawless lap in Q3 on Saturday to give Mercedes their first pole position of the season. The race, too unraveled smoothly for Rosberg. He led the race from start to finish, barring the pitstop windows. In doing so, Rosberg not only showed that he has the skill to make the most of a good start, but demonstrated yet again that he also has a calm head on his shoulders. The Mercedes car did a remarkable job of conserving its tyres well beyond what most experts were predicting it could. Rosberg’s third stint lasted more than 20 laps on the medium hard tyres. Contrast that with Kimi Raikkonnen’s disastrous 21st lap of his last stint and Vettel’s last few laps which saw both of them drop down the order, and one can appreciate how well the Mercedes driver and machinery looked after the tyres.
The victory couldn’t have come at a better time in Rosberg’s career. It is his seventh season in F1. Ever since his initial years, he has impressed one and all, driving well above the potential of the Williams he was competing in. He was rumored at a point in time to be in the running to partner good friend and long time rival Lewis Hamilton at McLaren after Fernando Alonso‘s acrimonious exit. His move to Mercedes in 2008 coincided with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s return to F1. Many a pundit thought it to be career suicide to take on the role of Schumacher’s understudy. Barrichello was a fresh example of how easy it could be to be overshadowed by the phenomenal talent and charisma of Michael Schumacher. However, the last two seasons have just seen Rosberg completely dominate the veteran in all aspects: qualifying, race pace or the sheer will to wring out performance beyond the car’s limits, and the car did demonstrate to have some very uncomfortable limits.
Come 2012, and things look to be changing. The Mercedes package does look like a far more competitive car this year, its revolutionary “double DRS” being a smash hit among the copycats. A definite No.1 status within the team will go a long way in determining the fate of either driver’s championship campaign. Michael Schumacher is beginning to show glimpses of the old brilliance, out-qualifying the younger Rosberg in the first two races, and looking strong in race trim as well. All this lends much more importance to this win for Nico Rosberg than the 25 championship points it brings.
The result at Shanghai also throws up some interesting questions for the sport this season: Are team Mercedes finally going to be a real threat? Can Rosberg be a contender in the long run? Do the Mercedes engines have it in them to take on the Ferraris and Renaults? What does that imply for Force India, the third Mercedes powered car, that has failed to realize the promise shown in pre-season testing yet? Can Lotus keep up with the impressive opening, and build a solid campaign throughout the season? How much wind does Sauber have in their sails? Things may change significantly as the European leg of the season gets underway and the big boys get a chance to bring a host of upgrades, but we still have one race in Bahrain for the lesser fancied Saubers and Lotuses to spring a surprise or two.
To round things up, with Mercedes getting on the board with an early win in the season making it three different winners in three races, the Red Bulls still looking off the pace in qualifying, Sauber looking like the faster Ferrari-powered cars and the midfield clearly closing down the gap to the front runners on track, it promises to be one of the closest seasons in recent history.
You may also like