After Nico Rosberg’s dismal performance at the Monaco Grand Prix, media attention focused on his ‘gentlemanly’ agreement to move over for team-mate Lewis Hamilton. This latest installment in the Nico vs Lewis saga created yet another source of frustration for those hoping for another titanic title battle.
Nico Rosberg: aiming for top step or top pay?
The question of whether he should or should not have moved aside is more complex than a simple yes or no response. It goes deeper in to a question of Rosberg’s ultimate motivation: to become a world champion or secure his position with what should continue to be F1’s dominant team?
Rosberg – it seems clear now – lacks the ruthless edge that marked out the likes of Senna,
Prost and Schumacher. The scenario in Monaco was a simple one: he was ahead of his team-mate who is his main rival for the title and his number 1 objective should have been to keep it that way. Within the tight confines of the Monaco street circuit, even with a pace disadvantage, that should have been a fairly straightforward task for the German. Imagining Senna, Prost, Schumacher or even Lewis Hamilton in the same position and I have no doubt they would have made it very difficult for their rival to pass. There would likely have been a few ‘radio problems’ during the race.
Contract negotiation time for Rosberg
News had emerged prior to the race that Rosberg was in talks with Mercedes about extending his contract, which made his decision even more frustrating. In that context, his decision to let his team-mate past (and ultimately go on to win the race) smacked of a man thinking more about his Swiss bank account than securing a position in the pantheon of F1 legends. And that is hugely frustrating for those of us who love F1 and believe the opportunity to become a world champion is a privilege.
The chance to be an F1 World champion is a privilege
Quite frankly, if Rosberg moved aside because he was thinking about contract negotiations first and world titles second, he does not deserve to be in title contention. Securing a seat in F1 for the next couple of years at the expense of a world title shot – perhaps his best – demonstrates a lack of passion and drive. Mercedes are not about to fire the driver leading the points standings for them over a strategy call. With Red Bull resurgent and closing in on the Silver Arrows in the constructors championship, there is even less reason to do something massively destabilizing to Rosberg for an indiscretion like ignoring a request to move aside for his team-mate, particularly so early in what will be the longest F1 season in history.
Lewis Hamilton feeds off of battles that he wins. This is what gives him greater confidence and motivation. Conversely whilst he has been mired in poor fortune and made some significant mistakes, his head has gone down and his performances have followed. He got his mojo back in Monaco because of two things: the fact his team-mate a) struggled so badly in Monaco and b) allowed him past with little cajoling required. Pole position today for the Canadian Grand Prix following dominant free practice performances proves that.
(Another) One that got away?
Rosberg could very well end up looking back on 2016 as another missed title opportunity. And if that proves to be the case, Monaco could well have been the turning point and he will only have himself to blame. But at least he will be able to buy himself something nice and expensive with a new Mercedes contract signed and sealed.