Why Lewis can’t crack Nico’s sisu

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS -

A con­fes­sion: I’ve al­ways been a bit of Nico Ros­berg fan.

Now I’m well aware that the prin­ci­ples of jour­nal­is­tic im­par­tial­ity for­bid any such al­le­giance, but I would counter that when you work in a sport that was once your pri­vate pas­sion and is now your way of life, it’s es­sen­tial to be able to re­mem­ber what it was that once drew you to­wards it. And it’s here that Nico plays his trump card: his dad, Keke, was the first F1 driver who re­ally caught my eye as a star-struck teenager. And given those in­deli­ble mem­o­ries of a Wil­liams-Honda FW10 driven fu­ri­ously through­out 1985 (with an equally feisty Nigel Mansell as team-mate – dear god, what a line-up!) it’s lit­tle won­der that the ex­ploits of his off­spring, this month’s cover star, would be of in­ter­est.

The first thing that struck me about Nico, when I was in­tro­duced to him at Wil­liams’ Grove HQ in early 2006, was just how bright he was. F1 driv­ers tend to be pretty smart cook­ies, but this one – phew! Four lan­guages, an aca­demic ca­reer in en­gi­neer­ing lined up had the rac­ing not worked out, and a sense that he was con­stantly, coolly, as­sess­ing the en­vi­ron­ment around him. And he’s al­ways been quick. In his first race there was a fastest lap; in his sec­ond he put his FW28 third on the grid. He beat team-mate Michael Schu­macher to Mercedes’ first ‘works’ win of the mod­ern era; and he set 11 pole po­si­tions last sea­son.

Al­lied to this there has al­ways been a strong sense that Nico was a bit of a fighter. While his in-car style may lack some of his fa­ther’s throt­tle-jockey flam­boy­ance, and while Nico’s cho­sen na­tion­al­ity is Ger­man (he’s of mixed Ger­man-Fin­nish parent­age, so holds dual na­tion­al­ity), there’s plenty of Fin­nish sisu in his blood. This word doesn’t trans­late di­rectly into English, but it’s seen as one of the defin­ing as­pects of the Fin­nish na­tional char­ac­ter: brav­ery, sto­icism, de­ter­mi­na­tion, re­silience. ‘Fight­ing spirit’, if you like.

It was clearly in ev­i­dence at the con­clu­sion of last year’s Abu Dhabi cham­pi­onship show­down, when Ros­berg re­fused to re­tire his car, de­spite an ERS fail­ure and creep­ing elec­tri­cal grem­lins that dropped him out of the points. But he’d in­sisted to his crew “I want to go to the end”, and it’s my sneak­ing sus­pi­cion that he’ll do just that this year.

As you can read in this month’s cover story (p28) he and Lewis Hamil­ton are in­cred­i­bly closely matched, and while Lewis un­ques­tion­ably has the edge (at time of writ­ing, pre-Ital­ian GP, he leads the cham­pi­onship with 227 points to Ros­berg’s 199) Nico is the man Hamil­ton just can’t put down and it would be no in­jus­tice if he did find a way to beat Lewis to the 2015 world ti­tle.

Have we just made Hamil­ton cham­pion-elect? In­deed so, and if he does beat Ros­berg to take ti­tle num­ber three this year, that would make him only the sec­ond Bri­ton, af­ter Sir Jackie Stewart, to have done so.

And where might that achieve­ment place him in a top-ten of Bri­tish cham­pi­ons? You’ll have to turn to page 40 to find out…

Fol­low An­thony

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