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Exclusive Nico Rosberg Q&A: New cars a real challenge

31 Jan 2014

Whilst some of their rivals have stuttered, Mercedes have enjoyed a positive week of testing in Jerez with both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton racking up plenty of mileage behind the wheel of the new turbo-powered F1 W05.

But with so many technical changes, what are the new cars like to drive? And just how different will the racing be in 2014? The cerebral Rosberg explains all in this revealing interview…

Q: Nico, you’ve been one of the lucky few to get an ample chance to drive your new car in Jerez. What’s your first impression: Is it good-natured or a beast?

Nico Rosberg: Definitely good-natured - with difficulties. The turbo driveability is still something of an adventure ride and it will take some time to make these cars drive nicely. We will get there in the course of the season - we just have to work on it.

Q: Much has been said about the paramount importance of driver/pit wall understanding in 2014. Some have gone as far as to say that the guys on the pit wall will decide the race and the drivers will be mere ‘luxury passengers’ in their cars…

NR: Ha, that is of course hugely exaggerated. But of course strategy will play a major role, as this is the nature of the new rules and the consequence of the new cars. So there’s no chance of a ‘luxury passenger’s’ life!

Q: But fact is that the pit wall can intervene at any moment…

NR: They can do anything from the pit wall - but they have to tell me what to do. I need to do it then. And as there will be many things that only they can see, there will be that massive interaction between us.

Q: So explain what it is that drivers have to do other than hang on to the steering wheel? All commands about fuel saving or deployment of ERS come from the pit wall...

NR: Believe me, there is still a lot going on in the cockpit because I also see these options and can react myself. So it is not just down to the pit wall because in the heat of the moment drivers have to also be in the position to make decisions. If the radio fails that definitely will not be good!

Q: How have you prepared for 2014? Sebastian Vettel has already said that if you drove with last year’s driving style you would never see the chequered flag...

NR: Yes, it is a challenge. It is a new page in the book. It is so complicated. When I was in the car on day two, the mileage was good, but boy, it was a fight in the cockpit. The tyres wouldn’t come up to temperature and we were going so slow - like GP2 times - so we have to adjust to all that. Only work will get you there. There are so many variables that my expectation is that it will be a very thrilling season. It will become somewhat of a science when to overtake and when to save fuel to be right there at the chequered flag.

Q: So the new Formula One racing is slower than the ‘old’ one?

NR: I would like to go faster than last year - but that is not going to be the case. That’s a bit of a downside in 2014.

Q: Will we see that the winning driver is the one who is smart enough to go slow?

NR: It will play a part, yes. Of course a racer always wants to go flat out, but I also find it a challenge to get the most out of this new situation. It’s a fact that in the last few years we weren’t always going flat out - the last time I can remember that was probably 2006 - so we are pretty conditioned lately to taking care of this, taking care of that. I think what we have now is a tribute to the direction that the world has taken. We all have to be more thoughtful. We are a sport but we also have to keep those things in mind. When I did almost 100 laps (on Wednesday in Jerez) I used probably one third less fuel than a year ago - so that is a good direction.

Q: Does that mean that the paddock needs smarter people in it than in previous seasons?

NR: Who knows? We are only at the start of this adventure. The fact is what we have here is much more difficult to understand - even I don’t understand it fully yet.

Q: You and Lewis looked pretty cosy together last season. What happens if you are fighting each other for the title?

NR: That is a huge misunderstanding: it’s not cosy. What we have is a good relationship - and that involves pushing each other within the team. It is a very competitive relationship and it works very well for the team right now.

Q: Who is more political of the two of you?

NR: Fortunately neither of us is excessively political - and that’s why it works quite well.

Q: Before it was Ross Brawn that you were talking to - who is it now that he has gone?

NR: Paddy (Lowe, technical chief) and Toto (Wolff, business director) - and Niki (Lauda, non-executive chairman) - the three of them. Technical is Paddy, but if I don’t like the colour of the race car I go to Toto! (laughs) That’s a joke. I’ll go to both and always try to give the same message to both.

Q: Last year, when you won Monaco you said that your dad Keke told you that only two things matter in F1 racing: wining Monaco and winning the title. You’ve ticked the box for Monaco…

NR: …and it was nice to tick that box. And as for the other box, I want to do better - and of course the title is the long term goal - but doing better is always the prime target.

Q: We haven’t seen a great deal of running in Jerez. Do you have any idea who else is going well, other than Mercedes?

NR: There was too little running, but I would say still the usual suspects.

Q: The next stop will be the test in Bahrain. What is on the agenda there, as it is understood that Jerez is really just a shakedown…

NR: Hopefully the reliability will be such that we can do a proper test and not just try to do mileage - and at the second Bahrain test we could start to look at times.