As he approaches one of the most important race weekends of his Formula One career, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg talked to the press at an official conference hosted by the FIA.
Nico is currently 12 points ahead of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton with just this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to go in the 2016 title hunt and while the chances of his taking the first ever F1 crown, Nico is only too aware that anything can happen in Motor Racing (and normally does).
Here he speaks about what it will mean to him and his family to take glory on Sunday, his season so far, both highs and lows, and of course, his relationship with Lewis Hamilton…
Nico, how are the nerves? Compared to the 2014 Championship showdown are you feeling more confident this time?
It definitely helps to have been there, done that, y’know? This is the third time that we’re fighting for the Championship and the second time that it’s gone to the wire so for sure that helps to feel more relaxed.
It’s been quite a year for both of you obviously. Which race of Lewis’ most impressed you so far?
Wow, that’s a bit of a question. I’ll need a bit more time to get into that because I don’t know really, I’m not thinking back. Of course, he’s done a great season, there’s been a lot of great races that Lewis has done, for sure. He’s been a great competitor, tough opponent as always, as was to be expected also. Yeah, but for me it’s just a focus on this weekend.
Lewis has obviously had worse reliability this year out of the two of you and would be leading on points even if Malaysia hadn’t happened. Nico, how would you feel about the perception that that’s facilitated your championship win if that’s the way it happens?
Of course I’m aware of how the season has gone for both of us but those thoughts… first of all the season isn’t even finished. We still have one race to go so it would be premature to get into any such discussions but anyways, such thoughts, I don’t have them at the moment, in any way because for me it’s about concentrating on myself this weekend. I’m excited because it’s the last race, fighting for the Championship again with Lewis and yeah, so I’m just really focussed, trying to get the job done. I really would like to win this race and finish the season with a win. That would be awesome.
Is this the most important ever for your whole family?
Ha! That’s a pretty easy one to answer. First of all I’m surprised you didn’t pull out a statistic. That’s very surprising. Secondly, no, for sure it’s not the weekend for my whole family, that’s very, very easy to answer, and that has become more clear also with the birth of our daughter.
Given that you’ve finished runner-up twice and are in a dominant position coming into this race, if you do finish second, would this be the most bitter of the three runner-up positions that you’ve had.
Again, why…? That’s not going to make me go faster to have such thoughts y’know? About something that might or might not happen in the future. For me what’s important is now. And that’s worked for me until now, and that’s why I’m in this position, fighting for the Championship right here, because of that approach. So I’ll stick with that, continue and focus on a race win this weekend. That’s it.
Can you say that you won’t get involved in any dodgy driving or with it all on the line is it no-holds barred in this last race?
Again, it’s none of what you just said. It’s going to be a weekend like any other where I’m going to go for the race win and do what it takes to get that. And that’s it.
So whatever’s needed to do it, is it?
Within the limits of what’s acceptable of course.
It’s been a close-fought season with the advantage swinging in both favours. What would you say was your best and worst drive of the year please.
If it’s OK I’m just going to dig into the best, I prefer that one. One of the highlights for me was Singapore definitely this year because it was just a weekend I really… in an important part of the season also which really went my way. In qualifying then in the race the pressure from the Red Bull and still getting the win. In the end that was one that I really like to look back on.
Nico, on Sunday evening, the season will be over but let’s come to the beginning of the season, but don’t worry, I’m not going through the whole season. But at the beginning five mechanics from Lewis’s team and five from your team left the team for Lewis. What was your impression of this change? Was it, at the end, a good idea during the season? What were your thoughts concerning this change? Were you surprised? Obviously you were not a fan of this change and who had this idea?
So the easiest way to answer that is if we look at the recent team spirit within the team because you know we’ve been fighting now for three years and within the team they’ve been fighting for the race wins and for the championship so it’s quite natural that a little separation can happen between the two sides of the garage and for the overall team performance that’s not a good thing because for the overall team performance you’d want to have great team spirit, everybody fighting for one direction, everybody holding together and that’s why the decision was taken to rotate a little bit and I think it’s shown this year that it’s been a very very good thing to do because our team spirit has been as good as ever, we’ve seen that recently and we’ve had some great parties together and whatever. Everybody’s just sticking together and it’s an awesome feeling within the team so it looks like that it was the right thing to do, even though initially it’s not something that’s super comfortable because my mechanics are close to me and it feels good and everything; to then change takes a little bit of time to gel as Lewis touched on before but I understand that from a team’s perspective that was the right thing to do and it’s worked well.
Could you just briefly talk about your relationship developing during these three years of fighting for the championship against each other, please?
The thing is that we still have from back in those days is the base respect and that will never go and that has definitely helped us through these years. For sure, I have a lot of respect for Lewis outside of the car and also inside the car. As I’ve said, we’ve had some difficult moments but also some good ones over the past years and this year, generally, I think we’ve made progress and so yeah, it’s generally neutral but of course it is a difficult environment.
You’ve played it pretty conservative back in Brazil, last few races, but that might not be the case this weekend if the Red Bulls get up tight...
I don’t think you would be saying that if you had been out in the race car with us. You wouldn’t call that conservative.
Are you prepared to deal with that, given the Red Bulls may have a chance to split you two and make things interesting for this title fight?
I’m here to win, not think about who might or not come between or be right behind me or whatever. No, I’m just here to win and I know that with the car that I have and the form that I’m in, I can make it happen and I’m just focusing on that. That’s it.
Be honest, what is more important for you here: winning the championship or a victory?
For me, here, the most important thing is to do an awesome performance, because that’s going to give both, isn’t it, so I’m doing whatever it takes to give the best possible performance and that’s the same thing that I’ve done for all the other races. Taking this as one more race, keep it simple, focus on going for that race win and putting everything towards that and not thinking about what if, because that wouldn’t be the right approach for me and that’s what feels good to me and that’s what I’m sticking with. Understandable?