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Choreographing a ‘perfect’ Nico Rosberg to beat Lewis Hamilton

What Rosberg needs to do differently to beat Hamilton this year?

19 Apr 2015, 16:47 IST
Rosberg has to do something, and fast

Nico Rosberg is a driver who is under immense pressure. He is under siege, and at knifepoint, this early in the season because of the recent lackluster results in the Mercedes. The German is currently struggling and miles behind teammate Lewis Hamilton in terms of race and qualifying pace.

In the last 11 races, Rosberg has only once beaten Hamilton. Whilst in between this period, the Brit also took home the 2014 Drivers’ Championship, fairly comfortably from the crutches of Rosberg.

Adjusting life to Hamilton ‘domination’ has not gone down well with Rosberg. The German has uttered and released his frustration in an undignified way. This is of course not expected from a man, who is known as one of the better characters of the paddock. The son of a former champion Keke Rosberg, Nico is always regarded as the boy next door of the F1 grid because of his charming and calm nature, both on and off the track. But, it has been a different story in the past year and a half because Rosberg has failed to match Hamilton and the ugly negative side of the German has emerged, which has anyway back fired for his own greater good.

The championship last season did indeed come down to double points at Abu Dhabi, however most of that was the effects of Hamilton’s bad mechanical failure rate. Although, if that replicates again this year, it can bring Rosberg closer to Hamilton in terms of Championship points, but not on ultimate pace, which he would eventually need. So what does Rosberg require in order to outwit and beat Hamilton this season, or is that the Brit indispensable in some way?

Beating Hamilton is difficult, but not impossible

Maybe only Jenson Button can tell you that. However, even that time it was Hamilton who, thanks to a series of on track crashes and accidents was mentally down in a significant way.

But this establishes it is possible that Hamilton can also let his game slip. However, this is not going to happen now, as the Double World Champion is currently enjoying life on track. He has a good car and he is winning racing in it. This leaves only one option for Rosberg and that is to make Hamilton’s life difficult off the track by playing psychological games. But, almost all the time the German has tried to get into Hamilton’s head, he has failed abominably.

Of course, Rosberg can up his pace, in order to beat Hamilton on track, but even that looks like highly unlikely for the moment. Rosberg may not be at his peak, however Hamilton is; and when that happens, even drivers like Fernando Alonso find it difficult to get past.

Best Rosberg can now hope for now is, Hamilton to make a slip up in qualifying or under racing conditions, which can become the much required break the German has been lurking for. Rosberg has to first put the pressure and hope for the best.

Rosberg needs to mend his qualifying ways and pace

Since ranting around in the press has not worked out for Rosberg thus far, it can be wise of him to keep the talking ‘reserved for the track’. But, one of Rosberg’s main hurdles, and Hamilton’s best weapon, has been qualifying. The Brit is very quick when it comes to a single lap’s worth of pace and that has made Rosberg’s life, at least for the past 6 months very difficult.

And, when it is all about garage versus garage these days, getting your setup for qualifying right is the key. Rosberg had more poles last year; however significant of it was down to Hamilton’s misfortunes on Saturdays (including Monaco). But, in the past few races, the story has been different and Hamilton seems to have picked up his qualifying pace and luck.

This is where Rosberg has to take a step back and work hard with his Race Engineer Tony Ross in order gain back his qualifying pace which he needs to beat Hamilton.  Of course, it is not the matter of Rosberg doing something ‘inhuman’; as the pace in the car is there because Hamilton is driving the same piece of engineering and is churning out results.

That’s why, Rosberg has put his head down, possibly take more risks, set up wise and then show his hands. Jenson Button had a very good piece of advice when he was asked about the German’s current predicament. The 2009 World Champion said: “It is about engineering a way around Lewis to get an edge on him. That is the area where you have to [Rosberg has to] work on.”  It may sound blunt, but Button is right. Rosberg has spent more time with his engineers in order to get past Hamilton, at least with qualifying pace.

Rosberg can also take the help of hiring new race and on track engineers. Many drivers do this for greater benefits (for example the duo Felipe Massa and Rob Smedley), but the Mercedes driver and Ross have been together since Rosberg’s Williams days, thus breaking the partnership could be a bad thing to do. However, change is the only thing which is constant; hence it can be applied if Mercedes feel confident. Of course, Rosberg can also ask Hamilton for help, but chances of that happening and Manor-Marussia winning the championship this year is equal.

Rosberg has to think about conserving tires and play around with the strategy

It is a well-known fact that Hamilton uses up his tyres to the maximum. He loves a car which is always on the limit, and hence eating tire becomes an easy thing to do. But, it is not like the Brit totally rips off the rubbers, he can conserve them when he wants to. And, he does that pretty decently under racing conditions. It is a Formula 1 decree that you must maintain the balance between pace and using up your tyres, that’s how the current regulations work.

Rosberg knows this pretty well too, and if you can’t beat Hamilton on outright pace, at least he try and do something differently. Yes, exactly the thing which Sebastian Vettel did in Malaysia, to beat the Mercedes pairing, and took home his first victory for the Scuderia Squad. But, Rosberg cannot change his strategy without any prior notice, because there is a gentleman’s agreement between both sides of the garage that they will always run the same strategy. This of course ensures two things; one partially and other, the team can always control the race pace of both the cars in tandem, when they are miles ahead of the lot. And, this ultimately means a simple one and two to the flag for the team.

But, even so, on the same strategy front, if Rosberg can improve tyre wear and management skills (specially the harder compound management for few extra laps in a stint), much more significantly than Hamilton, then he can of course force the team to change the notion. A long shot maybe, but options are running out for the German anyway. For this to happen, Rosberg has to do a very conservative but constructive Friday, and it can be a risk worth taking.

Rosberg has to show some on track aggression, rather than off track cribbing

Last season, on many occasions if felt like Rosberg did not have the ultimate edge when it came to racing one on one, and wheel to wheel. The German, quite a few times, easily surrendered his race lead to Hamilton, without putting up a fight. For example: Italy and Japan. Besides this, Rosberg has looked thus far incapable of getting past in the same menacing way. Hamilton does when it comes to carving your way out of trouble and cars.

However, when Rosberg did show aggression, Hamilton lost his left-rear tyre in Belgium and Rosberg himself was left with a flat-spotted front rubber in Russia. Hence, Rosberg has to be careful when it comes to tooth and nail fighting and exploring uncharted waters. Maybe, a cooler mind over the German’s shoulder can help. But, nevertheless Rosberg has to stamp his authority over the fact that even he deserves this position at the Silver Arrows.

The notion that Rosberg has been more concerned about Vettel, rather than Hamilton (the Backing Up Gate from China) is a sign that he looks withdrawn when it comes to fighting the World Champion. However, this should not happen. Rosberg is becoming an enemy of his own by doing this and there is also a truck load of improvement space left in his repertoire.

Only Champions are remembered

Time is running out for Rosberg, he has to act quickly

Rosberg has to understand the Silver Arrow dominance, and the hierarchy’s patience, will not last much longer. Ferrari and Vettel have closed up the gap and it is only a matter of races before they become top step contenders.

Also, since Mercedes is a German team, it makes sense for the squad to have a ‘National’ Formula 1 World Champion in Rosberg. However, it seems Mercedes might be putting more concentration and emphasis on Hamilton’s future at the moment and why not. The Brit is a great ambassador for the sport and he blends in well with Mercedes’s work culture combo of McLaren type seriousness and Red Bull style funk.

For this season, Vettel has already invaded Rosberg’s cozy, comfortable and granted runner up position and Kimi Raikkonen (and rest of the pack too) is also looking hungry. At this juncture, he has to understand that Mercedes might not fuel his career further, if he, dare we say, can’t even finish just behind Hamilton. Of course, he is locked in a contract till the end of 2016, but those are just binds of paper which can be torn apart anytime. We hope Rosberg gets his head around and makes amends to give us a fight we deserve at the top.

Everyone knows what Rosberg is capable of, but all of us possess a pretty short memory span when it comes to counting the previous good miles done over a current broken wheel of a wagon. The legacy and destiny of Rosberg is in his own hands, and he can carve this in his own way.

Maybe this is the maximum what Rosberg can eke out of the car. Hamilton is ‘really’ doing a robotic job with the Mercedes W06. But, it will not look good on Rosberg’s career biography if he ends up as another driver who came close, but could never taste the success of winning a Formula 1 World Championship.

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