Why Ros­berg would be a wor­thy champ

F1 Racing - - NEWS - Fol­low An­thony on Twit­ter: @Rowl­in­son_F1

The trou­ble with this year’s world cham­pi­onship – from a Bri­tish per­spec­tive at least – is the na­tion­al­i­ties of the key pro­tag­o­nists.

Nico Ros­berg, cast since 2014 as the bat­tling un­der­dog to Lewis Hamil­ton’s mer­cu­rial megas­tar, should, of course, have been ‘The Brit’. Lewis, mean­time, should have been ‘The For­eigner’. Then, in a flash, we’d have had a nar­ra­tive that bet­ter suited their re­spec­tive abil­i­ties, and with which the main­stream me­dia would have been more com­fort­able. Ros­berg could have played ‘Our Nico’, in­domitably plug­ging away at a su­pe­rior ri­val.

The masses could have de­monised Lewis for his oc­ca­sional petu­lance, while grudg­ingly ac­knowl­edg­ing his rou­tine and of­ten breath­tak­ing bril­liance. It would have been a mod­ern re-run of Mansell against Senna, or Hill vs Schu­macher. Is­land na­tion against tricksy foe: out­come un­cer­tain; plucky op­po­si­tion guar­an­teed.

In­stead, the mes­sage from cen­tral cast­ing got gar­bled, and it’s ‘The Brit’ who’s ex­cep­tional – so much so that Hamil­ton was poised, at the time of writ­ing, ahead of the Brazil­ian GP, to be­come the sec­ond most suc­cess­ful F1 driver ever, in terms of wins, with only Michael Schu­macher ahead of him.

Ros­berg, notwith­stand­ing the nine wins he has clocked up this year, re­mains cast as ‘The Trier’ – the doughty puncher gifted enough to pick up a vic­tory when his main ri­val is com­pro­mised and some­times, even, to sur­pass the ef­forts of his more starry op­po­nent. But no one thinks he’s truly wor­thy of be­ing crowned cham­pion ahead of Hamil­ton… do they?

That, dear reader, is where I draw the line, for in Nico Ros­berg I see a highly tal­ented, ex­cep­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent, as­tound­ingly re­silient driver and sports­man who, should he pre­vail over Lewis, will have pulled off one of For­mula 1’s most re­mark­able turn­arounds. Bat­tered and bruised by Hamil­ton through­out the hy­brid F1 era, Ros­berg has sim­ply re­fused to yield, let alone ca­pit­u­late.

One abid­ing mem­ory of the 2014 cham­pi­onship was Ros­berg’s ‘rage against the dy­ing of the light’ at the dou­ble-points Abu Dhabi de­cider. He was the rank out­sider for the ti­tle, but while there was a chance – while he was still afloat – he kept on swim­ming. One by one the elec­tri­cal sys­tems on his W05 be­gan to fail: first the ERS, then other an­cil­lar­ies, leav­ing Ros­berg un­der­pow­ered, un­der­braked and ul­ti­mately un­able to halt Hamil­ton’s im­pe­ri­ous march to an 11th vic­tory and a sec­ond world ti­tle. Ig­nor­ing calls to re­tire, Nico barked at his team: “I want to go to the end.” And so he did, trail­ing home 14th, lapped, point­less, beaten.

Beaten… but not bro­ken, for in 2015 he fought again to sim­i­lar ef­fect, and this year he has once more ‘gone to the end’. And for that rea­son, for sheer daunt­less strength of char­ac­ter, I would raise a glass to cham­pion Ros­berg, even while ac­knowl­edg­ing the ge­nius sans pareil of Lewis Hamil­ton.

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