The Inside Line #97: Playing the wrong cards 

TILI Logo PrintNico Rosberg is clearly a bright guy. Technically astute, multilingual, likely to study engineering if the Formula One thing didn’t work out, and so on. But sometimes you can be too smart for your own good [1], and it seems that old maxim applies this F1 season.

The game was up with Rosberg when he looked startled at the negative reception he received on the podium in Belgium last year; Rosberg may be a lot of things, but a tough guy or the villain he isn’t. Since then, he’s been little more than a pushover for Lewis Hamilton; on the occasions they’ve duelled on track, it’s been no contest, and Rosberg’s response in China when he felt Hamilton was backing him into third-placed Sebastian Vettel and leaving him vulnerable was, quite frankly, that of a desperate driver out of answers. For a smart guy, playing the ‘my teammate is making life hard for me’ card when you simply can’t get or stay in front of him was about the dumbest move imaginable, and one that elicited little sympathy [2].

Since Belgium last August, it’s been a rout in favour of Hamilton; only once (in Brazil last year, when Hamilton spun and still finished in Rosberg’s wheeltracks) has the German finished ahead of the world champion in the 11 races since. Rosberg’s resilience made last year’s championship compelling viewing as Hamilton looked like cracking at several stages; four races into 2015, there’s every indication the drama will be minimal this time around. Hamilton has a certain steel we’ve not yet seen [3]; Rosberg is a shell of what he was this time last year. With nobody else having the equipment to properly challenge Mercedes, Rosberg has the added responsibility of keeping up interest in the wider sporting world in F1 this year by raising his game [4]. And, in falling more than a race wins’ worth of points behind his teammate after four Grands Prix, he isn’t.

We still have 15 races remaining, but Bahrain last weekend simply reconfirmed that it would be a shock if anyone besides Hamilton took the 2015 title. A comprehensive review of all the action at the Sakhir International Circuit takes centre-stage on Episode 97 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week; check out the show on Fox Sports 5 and ESPN this week if you’re in Australia, and check local guides if you’re watching elsewhere.

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[1] On a related point: I wasn’t aware of the karma bus until I was on a bus (not the karma one) talking to a colleague in a time of difficulty in 2011. And he’s right, the karma bus does keep rolling … right over the people who deserve it.

[2] The British press were at their cheerleading worst after China, but for once I didn’t mind when it came to giving Rosberg the clip around the ears he deserved. What I did mind was the reluctance to apportion any blame whatsoever to Jenson Button for running Pastor Maldonado off the road late in the race. Yes, we know Maldonado is an erratic pay-driver who makes a million mistakes and shouldn’t be on the F1 grid, but he was innocent this time, perhaps for the first time. Put the pom-poms down and retain some credibility, please.

[3] Although his hair leaves a lot to be desired, apparently.

[4] I keep getting asked about F1 being ‘dead’ in Australia because of (a) the disappearance of live coverage to pay-TV this year and, to a smaller extent, (b) Daniel Ricciardo’s dip in results through little fault of his own. It’s a wider issue that warrants longer discussion that I can give it here, but my broad view is that if you’re a big enough fan of something or want to see it badly enough, you will. If that means sacrificing something else so you can pay to see it, then that’s what is required. Nothing more, nothing less. Should Australian fans (like much of the rest of the world, remember) be paying to see F1? Probably, given global trends. Is it affordable over a month? If you’re prepared to make some changes elsewhere in your life, probably. The quality of what we now get on Fox with the Sky Sports feed from the UK is the sort of coverage Australian fans have been desperate for and demanding for years. And now we have it. Time to put up or shut up.

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