Strain of fight­ing Hamil­ton will have taken toll on Ros­berg

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

The strain of fight­ing against Lewis Hamil­ton for the past three years will have sapped the strength of For­mula One cham­pion Nico Ros­berg.

That ver­dict comes from a man who knows Ros­berg bet­ter than most — his fa­ther Keke Ros­berg, the 1982 F1 cham­pion.

"He has a lot of sea­sons be­hind him and I'm sure that, es­pe­cially, the last three sea­sons have taken a high toll," Keke Ros­berg said in the F1 pad­dock at Abu Dhabi where his son clinched his first ti­tle on Sun­day after be­ing run­nerup to Hamil­ton in the pre­vi­ous two years.

"They've been very hard sea­sons, be­cause you're fight­ing for the cham­pi­onship for three years in a row, con­stantly," Keke Ros­berg said. "It's much tougher than try­ing to fin­ish sixth. I don't know how much it's taken out of him."

Asked what he thinks his son will do next, the 67-year-old Keke Ros­berg joked "maybe he re­tires to­mor­row."

Ac­tu­ally, he ex­pects his son to con­tinue for a few more years yet.

"There's quite a lot of mileage left in him," he said.

Next sea­son prom­ises to be an in­tense bat­tle as Ros­berg defends his ti­tle and Hamil­ton tries to wrest it back. Fur­ther­more, the 19year-old Red Bull driver Max Ver­stap­pen will be push­ing them hard, as will four-time F1 cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel — whose Fer­rari team ended the sea­son with­out a race win.

"If you don't raise your game, you freeze ... You have a lot of tal­ented peo­ple here who put in a big ef­fort," Keke Ros­berg said as he stood out­side the Mercedes mo­torhome.

"The level is al­ways high in For­mula One. Look at Max, he is the team­mate of (Daniel) Ric­cia­rdo. Or Se­bas­tian, he is the team­mate of (Kimi) Raikko­nen," he con­tin­ued. "On that level, when you take the top three teams, all of them have been world cham­pi­ons al­ready, or at Red Bull they're all young tal­ents. That's the level we have."

The hall­mark of Ros­berg's ti­tlewin­ning cam­paign was a steely re­solve under Hamil­ton's pres­sure, al­lied to high lev­els of con­sis­tency.

"You never have a 100 per­cent sea­son. You're not go­ing to win all the races. It's a bit like golf," Keke Ros­berg said. "When you hit the ball be­hind the tree, you have to re­cover from there. So even on a bad day, a golf pro plays a bad shot and re­cov­ers. That's the dif­fer­ence. It's the per­for­mance on a bad day, those points count."

He was partly speak­ing from his own ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing won the 1982 ti­tle de­spite win­ning only one of the 15 races that sea­son.

See­ing his son win the ti­tle as the sun was set­ting in Abu Dhabi on Sun­day evening was a strange feel­ing for Keke Ros­berg.

"After the last two laps I was quite relieved, to be hon­est," Keke Ros­berg said. "I was a lit­tle bit ner­vous."

Fa­ther and son were dif­fer­ent kinds of driv­ers in dif­fer­ent eras.

Ros­berg Sr. was a dash­ing driver who loved to bash his car around the track in an oc­ca­sion­ally reck­less man­ner, while Ros­berg Jr. is far more metic­u­lous and me­thod­i­cal.

But the mu­tual shines through.

"For me it's the story of fa­ther and a son, purely. I could have been a den­tist, makes no dif­fer­ence," Keke Ros­berg said. "I'm happy for my son and that's it. What I did is so long ago. It was a happy time, but it doesn't carry you 30 years after."

Keke Ros­berg se­cured his ti­tle driv­ing for the Wil­liams team yet only won five races in his ca­reer, while 31-year-old Nico Ros­berg al­ready has 23 wins — al­beit in an ul­tra-dom­i­nant Mercedes car.

"He is (a cham­pion). He is stand­ing on his own two feet. Don't for­get, I did like 114 Grand Prix in my life and he's now done 200 or some­thing," Keke Ros­berg said.

"So his level of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of the sport is so much higher than mine was. Also en­gi­neer­ing, they are so much deeper in there than we were, it's like a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world.

"We knew we had four wheels and that's it." ad­mi­ra­tion

Frank­furt’s Croa­t­ian coach Nico Ko­vac

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