Nico Rosberg – the driver debates

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Nico Rosberg isn’t having the season many of us expected him to have. Since scoring his first podium finish at Melbourne he’s only added to his points total with a pair of eighth places.

What’s gone wrong for the Williams driver?

Rosberg burst on the F1 scene in 2006 as winner of the inaugural GP2 championship. He joined Williams, the team his father Keke won the world championship for in 1982, and the partnership started well.

At the season-opener in Bahrain he bounced back from a collision on the first lap to finish seventh, setting fastest lap as he went.

The rest of the season failed to live up to that promise. The Williams-Cosworth FW28 proved unreliable, but Rosberg made mistakes as well. Two years later on he’s having a similar kind of season: on the podium in the first race, nothing much since then.

Last year Rosberg shone with a consistent string of excellent qualifying performances and points finishes. But where has that consistency gone?

Much was expected of the FW30 this year but its performance has waxed and waned from one weekend to the next. How much this is the characteristics of the car, and how much Rosberg is struggling to tap its potential, is hard to tell. But what is clear is his rookie team mate Kazuki Nakajima has been in the top eight more regularly.

But his is highly rated by Williams – and at least one other team. Frank Williams was determined to keep a hold of the driver over the winter when McLaren were courting him. Recent rumours suggest McLaren are still after Rosberg to replace Kovalainen at the team in 2009.

Are they right to rate him so highly? What do you think of Nico Rosberg?

Read more about Nico Rosberg: Nico Rosberg biography

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Nico Rosberg – the driver debates”

  1. Chris Johnson
    17th July 2008, 15:40

    I just don’t think he’s all that good. If McLaren are looking to replace Kova with Nico, it’s because he’s prettier and more sponsor-friendly.

  2. He’s clearly got pace. It’s unfortunate he just doesn’t seem to have the consistency to back it up with a regular string of results.

  3. I think he has pace too but really lacks the consistency required to rack up the points. I still think he has potential and is one of a few drivers that I’d like to see in a WCC winning car just to see how he would do. Not quite sure whether he necessarily WDC winning material, too soon to tell for me.

    But as Chris said, he’s a sponsor’s dream. Good-looking, smart and the son of a former champion. Plus he actually seems modest…

  4. I’m sure he’s thinking if only I went to McLaren

  5. A difficult one, I think. Sometimes he looks amazing and destined to be a world champion, other times he looks utterly ordinary. The ups and downs of 2006 could be excused by Williams’ unreliability and it being his rookie year. However, that pattern of results has more or less continued through 2007 and, so far, 2008. Is he missing not having an experienced team mate? Is playing the role of team leader weighing him down too much this year? Who knows. I’m surprised McLaren is rumoured to be looking at him as a Kovalainen replacement (actually, I’m not surprised it’s rumoured but I would be surprised if it were true). I don’t really see how Nico, on form to date, would be doing any better than Heikki.

    Going back a bit further, I can remember watching Rosberg in the F3 Euroseries where he was a frontrunner but never really stood out as being really hot stuff. In GP2 he had a slow start but came on strong over the year and managed to turn the tables on Kovalainen. I do wonder whether this was partly due to Rosberg driving for ART, which had gotten its head round the Dallara chassis better than everyone else. I sometimes think that, if it hadn’t have been for ART’s engineering cunning, Heikki would have been the inaugural GP2 champion instead… but anyway.

    I’d rate Nico as a good driver. Whether he’s a great driver I don’t know. He needs put in some solid drives – and beat Nakajima.

  6. Whitmarsh today rubbished the rumours that McLaren are looking to bring Rosber in.

    Rosberg is not bad, but I expected him to be much quicker than Nakajima. So is Rosberg slow or is Nakajima quick ?

  7. My take on this is as follows: A good driver driving a bad car for an extended period of time gets worse, or in any case; not better.

    If Rosberg was ever a better driver than Kovalainen, the reverse is probably true now. Even though I’m sure Rosberg still has potential, any damage driving in that Williams piece of not-so-good can’t have done him any favors as far as skill progression goes.

  8. ^ Loosing trust in the hardware, having to hold back and “ah geez I’m stuck at the back”-mentality probably inhibits “growth” skill-wise.

  9. You don’t see Alonso complaining…. well you do but he still drives the hell out of his car.

    A crap car should drive him to making the best of it.

  10. I think he has the potential to be great. But I fear if he does not have a competative drive soon he will always be a ‘could have been’. Hopefully the aero changes and slick tires level the playing field(at least for the first few races) next year and we’ll be able to get a better idea of what some of these champion GP2 drivers in current back marker cars are capable of.

  11. Nico could not live up to the hype created about him – he started seeing himself as a star far before he racked up enough good results.

  12. Nico has the capacity to develop into a championship contender, but somehow he doesn’t seem to be developing that way at Williams. It’s more of a consistency problem than anything else – mind you, nearly every driver seems to have a consistency problem at the moment…

  13. One more season with Williams will bury this very talented racer…

  14. @Polak

    Well I’m not arguing he’s not making the best of it. “Making the best of it” might include compansating for sub-par hardware (holding back, for example) and thus not developing as a driver.

    Certainly there are different responses from different drivers to a situation like this. Alonso has a very different background from Nico, two time champion and all.

  15. He’s the next Kimi. Take that any way you want.

  16. At the moment it is hard to say. It is so easy to blame the performance of the car, or lack of it this year. When Williams have given Rosberg a car that suits him, as at Spa last year, he can perform well indeed.
    For instance, plenty of other drivers have suffered horror stories in recent years at Williams, such as Mark Webber for instance, through no fault of his own.
    Williams are just a team that has fallen a long, long way off the pace indeed.

  17. To me, Nico’s current season has been a disappointment. Yes, he bagged third in the opener, but we can’t look pas the fact that it was a depleated field after the numerous crashes and spin-outs. I don’t think Nico is a bad driver or dosen’t have potential, but I do feel perhaps he was a bit over-hyped (as was this year’s Williams car) coming into the season. Perhaps he will get back in the game down the stretch, but the one glaring fact remaining is that Kaz has outperformed him for the better part of the season in my view.

    And yes, Heikki has failed to live up to similar expectations at McLaren in my view, but McLaren would do no better by replacing him with Rosberg.

  18. Nico has been in F1 a year longer than Hamilton, but in a way, his season so far somewhats mirrors that of Hamilton. His performance in qualifying has, within the ability of the car, been very outstanding. The weight of expectations, from a resurgent Williams, is just putting too much pressure on him.

  19. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    18th July 2008, 12:38

    i dont think the rosberg to mclaren rumours are true, to be honest i think right now mclaren will be glad they hadnt chose him.

    last year he was brilliant i9 thought consistently in the top 10 in qwualifying while his team mate couldnt get out of q3. But wurz is renowned for his ability at developing a car and i think thats where the problem lies. The williams looked good in pre season testing but i dont think they’ve got anyone to really keep the development going which may be why williams appear to be falling further back.

    at the start of the season i expected rosberg to be giving the bmw’s a bit of a headache and scoring regular points and beiong consistent, while i expected flashes of speed from nakajima and alot of mistakes, its been the other way round to be honest, nakajima is the 1 bringing the car home for a couple of points while rosberg keepos throwing it of the track

    i still think hes a good driver i just think his inexperience at developing a car is showing this year.

  20. I am not sure what to make of him. Webber buried him in their season together. Rookie season excuse perhaps and then last year he looked so good. How much of it was the Wurz effect? Again this year mistakes seem to have crept in. To confuse further, Frank Williams says he is magic….

    One of those Button-type drivers i guess…terrific when everything is dialed in and motivation is high, lackluster other times. Rosberg/Button/Trulli – Race winners definitely. Championship material? We will never know till they are in such a car.

  21. It might be funny to say, but Rosberg never impressed me at all… A fine driver, famous surname who got his seat on merit, but far from being WDC material.

    If I were Ron Dennis, I would certainly replace Kovalainen, but not with Rosberg… from the current field, the best choice is forbidden for life (Alonso) and the second one would be hard for Hamilton to deal with anyway (Kubica). That leaves Heidfeld as a reliable and experienced number 2, to make the german score a couple of wins before retiring at the end of 2010 season.

  22. As a life long Williams supporter and hitherto a Rosberg fan, I think he is a twerp. He has taken a car that clearly is better during a race than practice (I think he is not technically gifted there but difficult to know) and consistently stuffs it into the back of someone else. He could have got big points at Monaco and Canada and potentially Silverstone too if he had just been more patient. The sooner Frank gets rid of him the better as far as I am concerned. I would prefer McLaren and Williams to do a straight swap.

  23. Just found this one.

    Rosberg clearly has pace and has demonstrated this numerous times. The Williams he has certainly doesn’t help his case, and he will naturally have to have an improved car to show the results he can produce.

    I do think it is important to remember he is only 23 years old. This is still very, very young by Formula One standards, and there’s still plenty of improvement to go. Hamilton and Kubica are the same age and have, of course, produced better results, and I do think that both are better drivers. But this is not to say that Rosberg cannot be a consistent Grand Prix winner and champion one day, and both Hamilton and Kubica do have room for improvement. And of course, both Hamilton and Kubica have much better cars at this point than the Williams.

    Analyzing his driving, Rosberg is pretty smooth with the car in his braking, shifting, and steering inputs. He’s a bit more aggressive with the car than Heidfeld or Button, but not quite as aggressive as Hamilton, Raikkonen, or Kubica. (And nowhere near as aggressive as Alonso.) He’s also shown to be quite adept at overtaking. He can certainly be error prone, and he is inconsistent. As another commenter noted, I’m not quite sure he’s all that technically savvy, as Williams hasn’t really been able to take big strides in development while he has had a race drive, as opposed to Renault taking major strides forward once Alonso joined the team and got a race seat.

    I think the main problem he has at this point, aside from being in an uncompetitive car, is that he is quite a bit swayed by the distractions associated with F1. He’s basically become the paddock’s “Mr. GQ,” he lives in glitzy Monaco, and he’s certainly made his rounds with the rich and famous. I wonder if he is as focused on racing as he should be, whereas Nakajima is putting in a lot of effort to improve.

    Perhaps moving to a better car in a team with much more racing focus would be beneficial to him. I really see McLaren or BMW as being a great fits for him to reach his potential, as each team is a very tight-knit, focused group that would really give him the wakeup he needs in order to take the next step in his development. However, as a McLaren fan, I couldn’t be happier with the current driver lineup, as I feel both are elite drivers and view each as superior to Rosberg. And as a Heidfeld fan, I don’t wish to see him jettisoned to make way for Rosberg, and I see no reason for him to be given how hard Nick works, how well he works with engineers, and how much of a team player he is. If Kubica gets the chance with Ferrari that he has said he wants, then Rosberg would be a good choice to fill that seat.

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