Like fa­ther un­like son: it is Nico’s time to shine

Ros­berg ju­nior is not a copy of his dad on the track

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

Keke Ros­berg was a teenager when he swag­gered into a Swedish go-kart shop as an ap­pren­tice in the early 1960s.

By the time he left mo­tor­sports, his rep­u­ta­tion for brav­ery, speed and mus­cu­lar driv­ing had taken root.

“Peo­ple were in awe of him even then, how brave he was, what a crazy fast driver this guy from Fin­land was,” said Ste­fan Jo­hans­son, who be­came friends with Ros­berg at that shop and would grow up to race against him in For­mula One in the 1980s.

Ros­berg would end his ca­reer re­garded as a one of F1’s great swash­buck­lers, a hard-charg­ing, speed-seek­ing thrill master who won the 1982 cham­pi­onship.

Now his son Nico is on the verge of match­ing his fa­ther’s ti­tle, but with none of his flair. Even as he piles up wins, the younger Ros­berg has been called bor­ing, bland and even bad for F1’s ef­forts to at­tract new fans.

Nico Ros­berg doesn’t care, so long as his crit­ics call him cham­pion after this sea­son.

“I’m here to win races and not to please every­body that’s out there,” he said ahead of the Mex­i­can GP, won by Mercedes team­mate Lewis Hamil­ton who cut the Ger­man’s lead to 19 points with two races left. With his bushy mous­tache and bruis­ing driv­ing, Keke Ros­berg was a crowd pleaser in an era when the For­mula One was far more dan­ger­ous. Over the course of his F1 ca­reer from 1978 to 1986, five driv­ers were killed, in­clud­ing two in 1982 when Ros­berg won his cham­pi­onship. His qual­i­fy­ing laps at the 1985 Bri­tish Grand Prix at Sil­ver­stone re­main stuff of le­gend. He was al­ready se­cure in the pole po­si­tion and re­turned to the track after a spell of rain to go even faster, av­er­ag­ing more than 160 mph, a pre­vi­ously unattain­able speed. Jo­hans­son, who raced against him for five years, said Keke Ros­berg “epit­o­mised what auto rac­ing was all about at a time it was more brav­ery than tech­nique. In the rain, he was spec­tac­u­larly fast”.

Com­par­ing fa­ther and son as driv­ers is dif­fi­cult. Nico Ros­berg drives in an era when safety has been dra­mat­i­cally im­proved and tracks have been tamed with chi­canes de­signed to slow cars into turns deemed too dan­ger­ous.

When F1 re­turned to Mex­ico City’s Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez in 2015 after 23 years, de­sign­ers had elim­i­nated the no­to­ri­ous Per­al­tada cor­ner, long re­garded as one of the most fear­some in the sport.

“A lot of those el­e­ments aren't es­sen­tial any­more. Nico is clearly one of the top driv­ers in the world. I think maybe he doesn’t project the same bravado and the same sort of gutsy ap­proach as his fa­ther,” added Jo­hans­son.

And un­like his fa­ther, Nico Ros­berg leads a qui­eter fam­ily life. He even grows and eats his own veg­eta­bles.

“[Keke] en­joyed a very good drink, and also a good ci­garette,” said for­mer world cham­pion Jackie Ste­wart.

“Nico is much more dis­ci­plined with his regime of fit­ness and so forth. “He’s a mod­ern man.” To some, that equals bor­ing. Ros­berg has lived in Hamil­ton’s con­sid­er­able so­cial me­dia shadow the last two years, but his drive to­ward a cham­pi­onship has been clin­i­cal.

Per­haps most im­por­tant has been his men­tal ap­proach in not let­ting the ri­valry with his team­mate frus­trate him on the track.

Ros­berg is one vic­tory shy of be­com­ing just the fourth driver to win 10 races in a sin­gle sea­son.

That wouldn't be ex­cit­ing, but it would be good enough to match his fa­ther and in some ways sur­pass him. Keke Ros­berg won only one grand prix in his cham­pi­onship sea­son.

‘Peo­ple were in awe of him even then, how brave he was.’ – STE­FAN JO­HANS­SON ON KEKE ROS­BERG

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.