The penultimate edition of the ‘Rosberg’s Greatest Drives’ series sees us jump ahead three years to the Formula 1 season that has just passed by. Today, we look at a race that was crucial for Rosberg’s championship…Malaysia 2016.
Nico Rosberg had just destroyed the opposititon at the Singapore Grand Prix and regained the championship lead from title rival Lewis Hamilton. The following race in Malaysia was a very different one for the German. Initially, it did not start out well at all for Nico Rosberg. He had already gone through a very scrappy qualifying session which saw him 5th after this first run in Q3. He got it together for his final run and took 2nd, but his good work in qualifying would come undone at the tace start. As the five lights went out, he tucked into the slipstream of Hamilton and mounted a challenge for the lead into the first corner. It was then that a charging Sebastian Vettel came steaming through in his Ferrari as he tried to overtake the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. Massively outbraking himself, he speared into Rosberg’s Mercedes. The resulting contact took Vettel out of the race and left Rosberg facing the wrong way at the back of the pack.
“After the first corner, it was looking pretty dark. I thought my race was over and never thought I’d be able to continue. It felt like an uncontrolled four-time World Champion torpedo had hit me!”
Rosberg spun his car around and quickly set about charging through the field and to his credit, he did a fantastic job. Whilst he was in the fastest car on the grid, the relative pace of the field compared to Mercedes had narrowed, meaning cars he was passing were much quicker than back in 2014. He sliced through the field and was quickly back into the points. Every single point he could get would be vital, as Hamilton was leading the way and was looking pretty good to take the championship lead back from Rosberg. Rosberg soon found the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen ahead of him, and this was where he showed his determination to be the 2016 world champion.
Stuck behind the Ferrari for a few laps, Rosberg knew he had to get the points Raikkonen was holding for 4th place. Heading into turn one, the German looked around the outside of Raikkonen and appeared to be going for the switchback through turn 2. He was faking however, and Raikkonen left a Mercedes sized gap into the turn. Rosberg floored the throttle and lunged down the inside of the Ferrari, clouting it but getting away with it to take 4th from the Finn. It was a fantastic instinctive overtake that for some bizzare reason landed Rosberg with a ten second time penalty. Do the stewards want anyone to race in Formula 1 these days? It was not long after this that the dramatic engine failure for Hamilton took him out of the race, handing the lead to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and promoting Rosberg up to third.
Mercedes quite wisely turned Rosberg’s engine down after Hamilton’s blow out. A virtual safety car for the stricken Mercedes was deployed and once it ended, Rosberg pulled out the required margin to overcome the ten second penalty for pulling off a racing manourvere on a fellow driver. Like I said, I have no idea why that move was penalised! Despite getting lucky with Hamilton’s blow out, Rosberg showed great resilience to come back through the field like he did. The Nico Rosberg of 2014 or 2015 might not have done that. Indeed, we saw him fail to get a podium after a bad start dropped him from pole to fourth in Germany but, he’d worked hard in Malaysia. He left the race with a 23-point lead in the championship. At the next race in Suzuka, he took a commanding win to extend it to 33-points. 4 races later, he was world champion. Malaysia was one of the most crucial races of the season for Rosberg – and it was a drive worthy of a world champion.
“I fought my way through, with some great battles along the way which I really enjoyed, and was pleased to make it back up to the podium. To be honest, I can’t believe that I’ve just been standing up there from last!”
– Nico Rosberg