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Beating Lewis the ‘biggest thrill’ - exclusive Nico Rosberg Q&A

22 Jul 2016

Friday in Hungary saw the end to weeks of speculation as Nico Rosberg finally signed a new deal with Mercedes, keeping him with the Silver Arrows until the end of 2018. That means another two years as team mate to Lewis Hamilton, the man he currently leads by just a single point in the driver standings. It’s a challenge not everyone would relish, but then Nico Rosberg is not ‘everyone’. We caught up with the German to talk contracts, communication, and finding inner calm…

Q: Nico, the ink is now dry on your new contract, but did Mercedes try to beat the price down after your slight drop-off in results lately? Money is a sharp indicator of a driver’s value in the paddock…

Nico Rosberg: Ha, no! A two-year contract is not a day-to-day matter - and I am not a share on the stock market with daily adjustment where the price goes up when I am winning and tumbles down when I come in further back. Neither is the paddock a bazaar where you bargain the price. It’s not like: you’ve not delivered enough points in the last month - you get two camels less. There’s no bargaining at this end of the paddock. We all know my value - and that’s it.

Q: Then let’s turn to a non-monetary issue: the complaints from some quarters that Formula One racing is overregulated. You were a victim of it at Silverstone, where you lost second place due to illegal communication with the pit wall. What would you deregulate if you had your say?

NR: No, no, I haven’t been a victim. We made a mistake. The rules are there so that it is back to the driver and his machine getting the job done - no one else in the picture. And that is cool. I can live with that.

Q: But you were penalised…

NR: It was disappointing after the race to lose one position, that’s true. But this is Formula One - a fast-moving world - and that was already two weeks ago. And if it weren’t for your question I would not remember it anymore! (laughs)

Q: You would remember it…

NR: Of course I would. But we are working on it, to do a better job next time - within the rules.

Q: You and your team mate Lewis Hamilton are putting on the best ‘frenemy’ show in a long time - probably since the famous Senna-Prost rivalry…

NR: Ha, at least there are some positives in it…

Q: …but it is hard to say from the outside what is real friction and what is just for show. Nevertheless we are watching it with curiosity…

NR: That is good to hear! (laughs) Believe me: not much of it is for show, that is for sure. We are racing out there - two pure passionate racers wanting to win the race, the title, and the laurels!

Q: And after the race? Do you sit down and laugh about all those you’ve taken for a ride? The perfect Nico and Lewis show?

NR: No show!

Q: So you are both natural talents?

NR: In what?

Q: In the art of Formula One entertainment…

NR: You do what you can.

Q: Every driver says he wants a strong team mate. But would anybody really want to have a Lewis Hamilton in the next garage?

NR: Look at it this way: to beat him gives me the biggest thrill. That is the most exciting race win I can get, beating him in a straight fight. He is the world champion - he’s the guy to beat. And that is what it is all about: the challenge, the battle, and the win. That’s where the adrenalin comes from.

Q: But wouldn’t it be better to have him two garages away? In another team?

NR: It is good like it is.

Q: How often have you felt lately that you got the raw end of the deal?

NR: No raw deal at all. You have to accept that there is no ‘clean sailing’ ever in F1. To date - from all drivers on the grid - I have had the best season. That is a fact and I am happy about that. Of course I want to win every time - no question. And I am only focusing on wins - and not on points. People forget that these are two different pairs of shoes.

Q: Statistically you have indeed had the best season so far, so the paddock’s short-term memory must be frustrating - the view that you are only as good as your last race…

NR: Yes, the media can be annoying sometimes. Let’s put it that way.

Q: Has your rise to success made you more hard-nosed? How does the Nico Rosberg who started out in F1 11 years ago compare to the Nico Rosberg of today?

NR: Phew… big changes! Big progress as a human being, big progress as a racing driver, progress in my understanding of how this little F1 world turns. I am pleased to see all that progress.

Q: So are you more hard-nosed?

NR: Well, it’s a bit of a shark tank here, so you better get thick-skinned immediately. Actually, you better learn that very quickly and find you own passage through it. But you also have so many inspirational people here…

Q: But that doesn’t sound like friendship? Is this the ‘wrong pond’ for those ‘fishing for friendship’?

NR: In this environment friendship is indeed hard to find - but probably you are also not looking for it. There is so much at stake here - with money, prestige, ego, the public and knowing that the eyes of the world are on you…

Q: So on a scale of one to ten where would you position your ego?

NR: I am probably not so much aware of ego - I think I have to change that! I am working on it.

Q: You said that Lewis’ winning streak doesn’t get to you. But a one-point lead is the tightest possible margin. Where do you get your ‘soul food’ to stay calm? Lewis has said that he is very religious…

NR: I didn’t say it in quite those words. And let me counter: I have had the best season of all the drivers so far - and I have the best car - so there’s not much to feel bad about. I have the opportunity to win again here in Hungary because our car is awesome. So there you go.

Q: A one-point lead is a pretty slim margin…

NR: Yes, but it is better than zero! (laughs) I started the season at zero.

Q: Lewis said that he finds his calm in religion. Where do you get yours?

NR: From my family. I get so much happiness from them. But also here in the paddock from driving, from great results together with my team - and from interesting people that I meet here.

Q: Has being a dad for almost a year changed you?

NR: Yes. I am more conscious about the future. I want to provide the best possible future for my daughter - long term. That is on my mind. But then in the racing, it hasn’t changed anything. When I am racing I don’t think much about my family - in the evenings and mornings yes, of course, but not at the track. Then I am fully focused. I can divide between my left and right brain hemisphere. But what influence it has is that I arrive at the track more happy.

Q: Certain people have said lately that they would bet money on Lewis doing it again this year…

NR: …like who?

Q: Bernie Ecclestone…

NR: Ha, here we go again! Well, in this case it gives me a great opportunity to show that even those most profoundly adapted to Formula One can get it wrong once in a while! (laughs)