Number of times I’ve actually found myself cheering for a good outcome for Nico Rosberg: one. It was the aftermath of the Italian Grand Prix two weeks back, and when news came through that Lewis Hamilton (and Rosberg) were under investigation from race stewards for their tyres being under-inflated at Monza, I was hoping that Hamilton would be disqualified – not because I wished any ill against the man who will win this year’s world championship, but because I was hoping for the season to go as close to the wire as possible before he did. Cheering for the story, if you like. But then came the news that Mercedes had been able, unwittingly or not, to break a rule and somehow not be penalised for it, and that was that. Hamilton 25 points, Rosberg 0. Rosberg’s chances of winning this year’s world championship? Again, 0.
My Rosberg aversion doesn’t come back to his being a teammate of Mark Webber’s when he first came into F1 in 2006; much as I laughed at the ‘Britney’ jokes and the memory of Webber’s “Britney’s in the wall, mate” comment in Brazil that year, my view on Rosberg was never clouded by Webber’s thoughts on him in their time together, despite interviewing Mark more than anyone else I’d spoken to in any sport at that time. No, mine was more shaped by two of the worst interviews I’ve ever had the misfortune of doing in my time around the sport, one where I was openly and loudly berated by Rosberg for not ticking it off with his PR person first (which I had), the other where he was deliberately obstructive when he actually bothered to answer a question while spending the entire time looking over my shoulder for someone more important to talk to. Which wouldn’t have been hard, frankly (journos are usually at the bottom of the food chain in any F1 paddock, and I know my place), but it’s clouded my view of him ever since. There’s plenty of other people who treat anything in F1 as a transaction (as in ‘if there’s no direct benefit to me, I’m not doing it’), but you can at least pretend to be better than that … Plenty do. It’s not that hard.
Anyway, I digress. The seemingly baffling decision to allow Hamilton’s win to stand in Italy means we come to Singapore this weekend with the title slipping through Rosberg’s fingers. Sure, he’s never really been on Hamilton’s pace as he was last year, but perhaps that’s a product of Hamilton being five per cent better this year, and Rosberg five per cent worse. Perhaps there’s a hangover from coming so close to the championship and missing, as we’ve seen with other Grand Prix winners who never get as close again after not taking their one career chance (filed under ‘Webber, M.’). But right now, who would bet against Hamilton winning every race for the rest of the year? The car is up to it, he seems to be in better form than ever, and the competition isn’t exactly hurrying him over the line at many races where things go to the script. He’s won the past two Grands Prix; could he win the last nine of the season as Sebastian Vettel did in 2013? It’s certainly in play, and it’ll take more than my cheering for the narrative (or anyone else’s) to stop it happening.
We preview Singapore in Episode 118 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week – check it out.