It’s coming up to two years since Nico Rosberg shocked the world with his sudden retirement from F1, mere days after winning the 2016 world championship. That achievement marks the German out as the only man to have beaten Lewis Hamilton to the world title in the last five years, with the British driver odds-on to scoop a fifth drivers’ crown this year.
Speaking on this week’s episode of Beyond The Grid, presented by Bose, Rosberg offers a fascinating insight into the marginal gains required to defeat his great rival, including hiring a sleep specialist to combat jet lag, changing the make-up of his gloves to improve his starts and even manipulating his body composition – all for the sake of a few hundredths of a second.
“We were so on the edge with everything and we were overweight with the car, so our body weight really mattered,” he explains. “It came to the long summer break, and you can’t go on a diet in the middle of the season because it just destroys you mentally. It kills you.
“It’s so important to play the long game mentally in a season like that – I couldn’t afford to go on diets and so the only solution – and I thought of it myself - was to lose some leg muscle. So I stopped cycling.
“After the summer break we went to Suzuka and I was on pole by two-hundredths of a second and one kilo of the leg muscles that I lost is worth three-hundredths of a second per lap. I won the race and that really messed with Lewis’ head a little that weekend.”
Rosberg also puts forth his theory as to why Sebastian Vettel looks set to come up short in his championship battle with Hamilton this year.
“It’s all about consistency and he’s done the opposite. He’s been all over the place really in the last few months – he and the team both together.
“It’s been so one-sided since the summer that it’s unbelievable. It was seemingly Vettel who was going to take the championship and it’s just gone completely the other direction with total dominance since. And it’s just the result of mistakes, and you’re never going to beat Lewis like that, because Lewis doesn’t make mistakes.
“For me sometimes, he wants too much in the moment and doesn’t think about the long game. And he’s also a little too self-confident sometimes and doesn’t accept in the moment when someone else has done a better job. Sometimes you need to step back and say ‘the other guy’s better at this moment but I’ll get him back down the road somehow.’
“I’m sure he can do a lot better than he’s shown in the last couple of months, because he’s one of the best drivers in the world.”
In a typically wide-ranging discussion with host Tom Clarkson, Rosberg also discusses that shock decision to quit F1, whether he’s had any regrets about his decision since, how he thinks he’d fare if he were to jump into one of today’s machines, and much, much more.
To check out all the episodes to date, click here.