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Nico Rosberg Q&A: Mercedes should have Bahrain advantage

03 Apr 2014

This weekend marks Nico Rosberg’s 150th Grand Prix start and he will be doing it from the enviable position of leading the championship by a healthy margin from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. It seems all the years of hard work have finally paid off, and at last Rosberg has everything he needs for a genuine crack at the title. But how does the man himself see it? We caught up with the German for an exclusive interview in Bahrain on Thursday…

Q: Nico, how luxurious a feeling is it going into each race knowing that you can win it?

Nico Rosberg: Ha, that’s very luxurious. It’s a great momentum that we have right now. It further increased the pleasure of being a driver. (laughs) It is fantastic to have such a fast car. I never had that before in my career. Awesome!

Q: But it’s not only being able to win: you’re leading the championship right now - also a first…

NR: Yep, it is. But I am not really thinking about the championship - I take it race by race. The rest will come…

Q: …but it’s a new place in the pecking order for you. There are not many guys in the paddock who have led the championship…

NR: True, but the pecking order’s not so relevant for me. I want to win races, that’s all.

Q: You’ve had to wait a few years to get to this point. How did you get through that, and survive and stay in good spirits? Many times if a team don’t go anywhere the driver has to go…

NR: That is so true. Suddenly word gets around that the driver is not fast enough.

Q: Have you ever been in that situation - fearing you might have to pay the price for poor team work?

NR: I’ve been in difficult situations, of course. And I have always been able to fight through, coming out stronger. Mastering a difficult moment is always valuable - it made me stronger.

Q: You are now in your fifth season with Mercedes. Can you tell us your most special moment of each year?

NR: Let me see if I get it together. 2010, being paired with Michael Schumacher. 2011? I can’t really remember anything special. 2012, end-of-season disaster. 2013, winning Monaco. 2014? I am open for anything far in front.

Q: How much of a relief is it for all of you to know you can finally deliver? All the huge recent personnel changes at Mercedes certainly weren’t caused by the team over-delivering…

NR: I am really happy to know that right now we are the best in our sport. Everything that has been done has moved us in the right direction.

Q: How much pressure was there to deliver? A premium brand like Mercedes cannot allow failure to be attached to its name for too long. Previously you were with Williams, a private team where there was probably less pressure of that sort…

NR: Failure is failure. And there is pressure in any team. For Williams it was about the existence of the company - and for them that had the same importance as brand value for others - so doing well, being successful is a necessity for every team.

Q: The Mercedes engine is the ‘must-have’ of the season so far. If the team can keep this momentum it will be you and Lewis fighting for the title. Or could someone else stand in your way?

NR: Sounds good, but is way too early. Look at how Red Bull has come on so quickly.

Q: Are you surprised that Red Bull have caught up so massively?

NR: Surprised? No, because they are the benchmark. They are the best. So it was expected that they would bounce back massively. Now it is on us to stay ahead.

Q: Everybody expected that Adrian Newey would design another winner - that was never in doubt. The question was whether Red Bull together with Renault would get things sorted out so fast…

NR: Obviously they did. I don’t think about the engine individually, but that is probably because both engine and chassis for us are an in-house development. So for me it’s always the package. Maybe that’s what gives us the break.

Q: Lewis and you seem to be a pretty cool pairing - and some would say the hottest driver pairing in the paddock. What’s the basis of your good relationship?

NR: That we’ve known each other for so many years - that’s it. We were kids when we got to know each other. Back then we used to go on holidays together. We have so many stories and interests to share - that’s the basis.

Q: But success can change everything…

NR: Yes, that makes everything more difficult. But so far it works. We are on good terms, as respect is the best bond in F1 when it comes to fighting neck and neck.

Q: Many fans see in you and Lewis a potential rivalry of the James Hunt and Niki Lauda variety. Which of the two would you be?

NR: I don’t want to be anyone other than me. Both characters are fascinating people. Of course I know Niki and I saw James in the movie [Rush]. It was perhaps not represented totally realistically, but I guess you could get a bit of an idea how he was. It’s great to work with Niki, but I have no intention of copying either of the two.

Q: For some reason the ‘Vivien effect’ - that you win every race your girlfriend attends - did not work in Malaysia. What was the reason?

NR: Ah, it was there - just probably not strong enough to win the race! (laughs) To be honest there were some reasons: the tyre pressures were too low on the rear tyres. I was probably too conservative in that respect. We’ve analysed that in the last couple of days - and learned from it. Who knows if that will be relevant this weekend, but it’s good to understand why things happened.

Q: Let’s focus on this weekend: is another one-two possible - perhaps in a different order?

NR: Yes, possible. Reliability will tell. Chances are good.

Q: You have a special relationship with the Bahrain track…

NR: Yes, I won the GP2 championship here and I did my first F1 race here…

Q: So that’s in your favour…

NR: You cannot compare. It’s a new situation: the cars are different and for the first time it will be a night race. So the paramount thing is that I get my car to my liking. Then I’ll take it from there.

Q: Speaking of car and liking, what is the best part of your car?

NR: My power unit. Or more precisely, my hybrid power unit. I would say with this track layout we should have an advantage.