1. THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO BE FAST: “My girlfriend and her mum were standing on the trackside watching and even though the cars were exactly the same without any markings, it was so easy for them to see which car was me and which was my dad, because he was just going sideways, jumping over everything, and never going straight. And then there was me, much more smooth and controlled. Maybe that’s the best description of how we are different, he drives sideways and I drive straight. There’s more than one way to be fast you know.”
2. SOMETIMES YOUR 10-YEAR-OLD SELF SHOULD BE LISTENED DO: There may be many ways to drive fast, but growing up the son of a Formula One champion in the glamorous conclave of Monaco is surely a great start if you plan to make a career out of it. When he was just 10 years old, Nico remembers being dressed in a pair of matching overalls and seated next to his father on the roof of a car for his farewell lap of the German Touring Car Masters (DTM). “It was one of those moments where I said, this is what I want to do too.”
3. HOW TO FOLLOW IN YOUR DAD’S FOOTSTEPS…THEN BREAK OUT OF THEM: Nico Rosberg has certainly led a charmed life, but privilege has its down side; the shadow his father cast in car racing was the size of Finland. For the half-German, half-Finn, the challenge has been having the guts to do what his father did, but to “do it in my own way,” in a sport that has changed radically. “Back then there was just one button on the wheel,” Rosberg says, later joking that it was for a cigarette lighter. “Now it’s so much more technological. There are 34 buttons or more, it’s like a spaceship control centre. It’s incredible.”
4. WE’RE NOT ‘REAL MEN’ ANYMORE (LOL): The car’s not the only thing that’s changed since 1982 when Keke was king. So has the overall concept of being a man. Back then, and Nico can’t help but break into a big smile as he assumes his dad’s voice, “’They were real men,” Rosberg says and a quick YouTube search for Keke’s highlights shows how. In one clip there’s footage of pit crew blowing out a fire that had erupted in arch rival Nelson Piquet’s engine like it was a birthday candle. “Now he says we’re like wimps. He used to smoke his cigarettes, put it out on the grid then jump in the car and off he went.”
5. BEWARE OF SERIOUS MEN WITH BABYFACES…: Rosberg smiles frequently, but his default expression as he waits for each question is with eyes narrowed to attention. By his own admission he values precision above all else in his own life and in the people around him. He later commends me for being well researched. Just half an hour with Nico and you’re left with one very strong impression of the man; he is serious. He has the energy, and youthful appearance, of an excited child when the conversation turns to table tennis for example – his favourite exercise to sharpen his reflexes off the track – but on the topic of 2014, his eyes sharpen again to laser points. You might call it a ‘game-face’, but Formula One is no longer a game for him. If a breakthrough season with multiple podium finishes is ever going to happen, it is now, this year. (And boy, was it ever – Ed) He had his first win last year at the Chinese Grand Prix in 2012, his Mercedes AMG Petronas car has closed the gap on their opponents in terms of its performance and his new teammate is an old go-karting mate, the “very talented” Lewis Hamilton.
6. KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE AND YOUR TEAM-MATES EVEN CLOSER: “When Lewis [Lewis Hamilton] and I were 14 we were dominating, always finishing in the top in the go-karts world championships,” Rosberg says of Hamilton. “And we used to say to each other ‘imagine one day we could be team-mates in one of the best F1 teams’. And now it’s come true, 13 years later. We still get on well but at the same time we’re massively competitive, always have been and always will be.” Rosberg is at the zenith of his career at 28 and he’s also at the peak of physical and mental fitness, thanks to a steely regime, that only allows for ice cream “after a race”. “The whole race weekend is demanding, not only mentally but physically,” Rosberg says. “People at home might wonder how turning a steering wheel can be so hard but it really is tough because you have G-forces and the seatbelt is so tight that you can’t breathe properly. When you go into the corners you don’t breathe at all, you have to remain completely tense. Then you have the fuel tank right behind your back, which is 60 or 70 degrees. It’s intense.”
“…we used to say to each other ‘imagine one day we could be team-mates in one of the best F1 teams’. And now it’s come true, 13 years later. We still get on well but at the same time we’re massively competitive, always have been and always will be.”