The final part of the ‘Rosberg’s Greatest Drives’ series sees us look at what was possibly the greatest drive in his Formula 1 career – A race which saw him annihilate the entire field and soak up immense pressure from a charging Daniel Ricciardo. The greatest race of his career was undoubtedly Singapore 2016
The Singapore Grand Prix weekend of this year was the most incredible performance we have ever seen by Nico Rosberg. It saw him outclass Lewis Hamilton and really put him in the shade, almost making him look average. If you are asked to pick a race that proves Rosberg’s worthiness as world champion, Singapore is surely the one. He had lead every single practice session of the weekend, underlining how dialled in he was with the track. The Marina Bay circuit is one that he has always thrived at. But Qualifying really showed how far ahead of Hamilton he was, the edge he held was consistent as each session progressed.
“I think this lap is in my top three of all time. I felt totally at one with the car, which is really rare.”
Rosberg was on it on Saturday. He delivered a sensational lap to beat the Red Bull of Ricciardo by over half a second. Hamilton managed only third, over 7-tenths behind his teammate. It was the largest Qualifying gap between the two Mercedes drivers all season (discounting sessions where Hamilton had issues). Rosberg was quite simply on another level entirely and Hamilton couldn’t respond. The race then showed Rosberg’s mettle and the pressure he soaked up at the end really turned into a champions drive.
Rosberg got away off the line well and held off Ricciardo as Hamilton grappled with a charging Raikkonen. Behind them, chaos ensued as Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg was tagged by Carlos Sainz’s Torro Rosso into the pitwall, prompting a safety car period. At the restart, Rosberg proceeded to pull away from the pack and left Ricciardo in his wake. As he did that, his teammate continued to struggle. Both Mercedes drivers were managing their brakes but Rosberg was doing the better job. Due to the brake-nursing, Hamilton was soon fending off Raikkonen for the final spot on the podium. Raikkonen was ready to pounce and just after half distance Hamilton locked up, giving the Finn a whiff of opportunity. Raikkonen barged through at the former ‘Singapore Sling’. Hamilton was now off the podium and Mercedes had to try something different to get him back in front of the Ferrari. What they did almost cost them the victory for Rosberg, but it gave us a fantastic end to the race.
“It was a bit tight at the end after Daniel (Ricciardo) did a clever pit stop timing wise”
Mercedes pitted Hamilton for a third time to open up the options of either undercutting Raikkonen or catching and passing him on track if he didn’t pit again. Ferrari did pit the Finn again and he came out behind Hamilton. Red Bull had a big enough gap with Ricciardo that they could safely pit him and get him out again in second place, allowing him to chase Rosberg on fresh rubber. Mercedes then got ready to bring Rosberg in to relinquish Ricciardo’s rubber advantage. But, traffic on his in lap coupled with a blistering outlap from Ricciardo meant that if he pitted, Rosberg would come out in second place. Mercedes rolled the dice and kept him out there, crucially choosing track position. On much newer supersoft tyres, Ricciardo started to reel the old soft tyre-shedding Mercedes in. The Silver Arrows could well have cost themselves the win if they’d taken Red Bull’s bait.
Ricciardo was up to three seconds a lap faster than the Mercedes and was on course to catch Rosberg with 4 laps to go. But the tyres naturally would lose their edge and Ricciardo caught traffic near the end of the race. He didn’t give up though and kept closing, and closing, and closing. It would have been easy for Rosberg to make a mistake with the pressure from the Red Bull ramping up. He didn’t though, and he crossed the line just four tenths of a second clear of the Red Bull to take an incredible victory. One which gave him an eight point lead in the championship. He then of course went on the take his first world title and would retire from the sport.
“I’ve known Nico since 2013 and that is the best Nico Rosberg I have seen at any weekend since then.”
That quote from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff really sums up the race. Rosberg had a huge advantage over Hamilton and the rest of the field throughout the entire weekend. His race performance was exemplary in that he endured immense pressure. I think it was the best Rosberg we have ever seen. It showcased his mental strength, the underlying speed he can call upon and a hunger to achieve his childhood dream. Rosberg performed at his peak in 2016 and bowed out in style in Abu Dhabi. With drives like Singapore, how can you deny he is a worthy champion? Nico Rosberg took on Lewis Hamilton and won. He leaves as the 2016 Formula 1 World Champion and no one can take that away from him.
“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion. Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target.And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right.”
Nico Rosberg, announcing his retirement from Formula 1
Narrowing down Rosberg’s best drives to five was a difficult task, so here are some others worthy of a mention
Abu Dhabi 2016
The race that saw Rosberg become champion. He held onto second place with immense pressure from Hamilton in front and with Sebastian Vettel behind him in the closing stages. A ballsy overtake on Max Verstappen was the highlight of the race. He didn’t crack and became world champion after 55 incredible laps.
Took pole position in a thrilling shootout with Hamilton, edging him by just 0.013s. Made a great start as Hamilton dropped to 8th and took a crucial victory to extend his championship lead to 33 points. A fantastic performance all weekend at a legendary track. A great place to take your last win and pole.
Rosberg’s first Grand Prix victory was executed in emphatic style. He took pole position at a track he has always gone well at and the lap was so good he didn’t need to do a second run! Made the perfect getaway at the start and despite losing wingman Michael Schumacher early in the race, he went on and dominated at the front. A brilliant first victory.
Qualifying saw Hamilton take pole at Monza by over half a second, so it looked like it was all set up for the ‘Lewis Hamilton Show’ on race day. But the Briton made an appalling start as Rosberg nailed the getaway and the German took the lead. He fought back on race day after a tricky qualifying and closed right in on Hamilton in the championship over a race weekend in which he was given no chance by press punditry’s finest.