If the bogey-man should try
To play tricks on your sacred mind
To tease, torment, and tantalise
Wavering shadows loom
It is hard not to think of Nico Erik Rosberg in a comfortable cocoon at Mercedes GP, perhaps in a slumber of comfort and content. A cosy cradle. The German appears to be the complete antithesis of his reflex-honed Father, Keke, in so many ways. Often appearing cautious in battle and on occasions going through a Grand Prix almost un-noticed, Nico Rosberg will have his work cut-out in 2013 not to earn the tag of ‘F1 enigma’.
There was a sense, a hope, that his breakthrough victory at Shanghai would open the flood gates to success. It didn’t happen and nobody could point the finger at Nico for the Mercedes W03’s slide from competitiveness last season. Yet there is still the question as to why after seven seasons of F1, he is not at the very least, a strong team leader.
Nico is a cerebral driver. Perhaps in a perverse way, his intelligence away from the cockpit, is one of the aspects that will never put him in the very top rank. Many aspects of his career are at a crossroads. It has echoes of Mika Hakkinen in 1997. Then, the great Finn fought tooth-and -nail for his first Grand Prix victory, managed it at the final race of the year at Jerez (in dubious circumstances at least) and then never looked back. Two years later he had won two World titles and 14 races.
It won’t happen like that for Rosberg. Mercedes will be strong this year and they are likely to win races. Problem for Nico is that he has the fastest driver in the business getting comfy in the Brackley based team.
Lewis Hamilton does not have the cerebral dimensions and scope that Nico Rosberg has. Nowhere near it. But how often have brains triumphed over speed and guile in F1? Lewis knows only too well that it does occasionally happen after his three seasons with Jenson Button attest. This is another aspect of which Nico needs to be wary in 2013. Hamilton will not want it happening at all, ever. Never mind occasionally.
The big question then, is if Lewis blesses himself with a new responsibility and much needed maturity for 2013 and beyond, then his old karting friend may well be looking at jumping up at the table, merely for the scraps. Will the odd podium and win satisfy the German and how will he analyse the Button/Hamilton interface from 2010-12 to his benefit. Can he gauge anything from it and even if he can will he have the teams backing and capability to act upon it?
Niki Lauda, will be more than a figurehead at Mercedes GP. Lauda was one of the most intelligent racers that ever lived. Guile and cunning were Niki’s stock-in-trade. But there was also a racers heart beating fast within the Austrian. He will see a lot of himself in the Stevenage firebrand and Nico should be wary of that.
Patience will start to wear thin if Mercedes fail to add victories to their current single tally. Lauda will not hesitate to stoke the fire and cast doubts upon the German, if Rosberg gets crushed by Hamilton’s speed. Equally, Nico’s genes come with their own fighting spirit very much ingrained. So the cordiality may combust whenever these genuine friends get together this season. The winners of course are us, who will be watching with increased fascination.
The words at the top of the page are from ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’ by The Smiths.