By Staff Reporter
Nico Rosberg is not a real German, according to the unfailingly controversial Lewis Hamilton. After his victory at the British Grand Prix, Hamilton is warming up nicely for the next race in Hockenheim on Sunday week.
Rosberg was born in Wiesbaden, south-west Germany. The son of a German mother and Keke Rosberg, the Finnish 1982 Formula One world champion, he moved to Monaco when four weeks old. As a consequence, the 29-year-old’s following in Germany has been modest but since establishing a lead in the world championship driving a Mercedes while his world champion compatriot Sebastian Vettel faded from prominence, Rosberg has enjoyed a new following in the land of his birth, especially via social media.
His team-mate Hamilton, a boyhood friend who is only four points behind Rosberg after his fifth win of the season at Silverstone, said: “To be honest, Nico has never been in Germany, so he’s not really German. I remember when we used to race during karting, he never stood next to a German flag – not ever.
“We would have to go on the start line and all the drivers would have to stand next to a grid girl in a line. The girls would be holding the flags or a sign saying Hungary or whatever, and he always stood by the Monaco one. He never stood by a German flag. He is German-Finnish-Monaco-esque, or whatever. So it would be great to win in Germany.”
Earlier in the season Hamilton, whose deftness at the wheel does not mean he is above playing mind games, suggested he was the hungrier driver. “Let me tell you this: I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment, while Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things, so the hunger is different.”
The friendship between the Mercedes drivers has faltered as they have emerged as the two candidates for the championship. Rosberg has never won the German Grand Prix while Hamilton is looking for his third victory there to regain the lead in the title race.
Hamilton admitted that it had been like climbing a mountain to get back on terms with Rosberg after he failed to finish in Australia and Canada. His victory at Silverstone, coupled with Rosberg’s retirement with gearbox failure, meant the British driver clawed back a maximum 25 points.
“When you are climbing a mountain and you keep slipping back, after all the hard work and strength you used to get there, it’s difficult,” Hamilton said. “I was 29 points behind and I was thinking ‘just don’t lose another seven points through car failure or whatever’. If that happened it would have been a massive step backwards, and the mountain gets bigger. I was going around saying ‘please don’t break down’. But everything was smooth and normal.”
The good news for Hamilton is that there are 10 races to go and he has already won eight of them before, while Rosberg has not won any. Rosberg’s six career wins have come at Australia, Monaco and Austria this year, Silverstone and Monaco last year and China in 2012; all these circuits have already been ticked off this season.
The bald statistics are a little misleading because this is the first year that Rosberg has had a dominant car, while Hamilton (27 wins) was a regular podium topper with McLaren. Hamilton’s winning experience should still give him an edge. He needs only four more wins to draw level with Nigel Mansell as Britain’s most successful driver, with 31 victories. When he gets there he might need reminding. He referred to Jim Clark as “James” when he pulled alongside him in the list earlier in the year, and when told that he was level with Sir Jackie Stewart he said: “I didn’t realise … to be among these names is a privilege.”
Hamilton’s former team-mate Jenson Button, who narrowly missed out on a first podium place at Silverstone, has talked to Ron Dennis, the head of McLaren, who had annoyed the driver by telling him to try harder. “We joked about it after qualifying,” Button said.
“He said: ‘See, my comments worked.’ I said ‘stop it Ron’, as my dad would have said. When you already give 100%, words do not change anything, negative or positive. I don’t want to do a bad job, I want to do the best job I possible can. That’s what I live for. I hate it when I have a bad race.”
McLaren are still stalling on offering Button a new contract but the 34-year-old said: “We have a good understanding. I can’t comment on contractual things but I’m not worried about my future in F1 and I shouldn’t be. I’m a world champion, I’ve won 15 grands prix and feel I’m at the top of my game. I’ve got a really quick team-mate pushing me on and don’t see why I wouldn’t be here next year.”
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen will not take part in the two-day test due to start on Tuesday at Silverstone following his dramatic first-lap accident at the British Grand Prix.