Nico Rosberg has not only seen his points lead disappear, but also the respect he had from his fellow drivers. Truly, Nico Rosberg’s 2016 season has seen him go through a tremendous fall from grace.
Nico Rosberg’s 2016 Season
What Could Have Been
2014 could have been Nico Rosberg’s year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix his crowning achievement. Although he was down seventeen points, Rosberg had a chance to win his first world title. However, electrical issues handed the title to his teammate Lewis Hamilton while Rosberg finished 14th. 2015 saw the dominance of Hamilton, who easily claimed his second consecutive title by the United States Grand Prix. Through four of the first five races this season, Rosberg dominated with win after win while Hamilton struggled. That is until the Spanish Grand Prix, which can be seen as the beginning of the end of Rosberg’s season.
Spain to Germany
At the end of turn three on the first lap, Rosberg was in front of his teammate. However, due to Rosberg being in the wrong engine setting, he slowed down while Hamilton quickly closed the gap. Rosberg blocked Hamilton, forcing Hamilton off the track. Hamilton lost control of his car and crashed into Rosberg. This resulted in the first double DNF for since Mercedes he 2011 Australian Grand Prix. Many were quick to blame either driver. Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson sided with Hamilton, while F1 legend Jackie Stewart stated that “Hamilton is to blame… You don’t go for it on the first lap.”
At the Red Bull Ring in Austria, it seemed as though Rosberg tried to force Hamilton off the track again. The last lap saw Rosberg turning late into the second corner to defend his lead. Rosberg lost his front nose and finished fourth while Hamilton went on to win the race. Silverstone saw Rosberg receive specific instructions about his gearbox that the stewards deemed coaching, which at the time broke FIA regulations. The FIA assessed a 10-second penalty to Rosberg, which he didn’t agree with. That dropped him to third. Hungary saw Rosberg get the pole with a lap that was set during a double yellow flag, which was questioned not only by his teammate but also by fellow German Sebastian Vettel. And then there was the incident last week with Max Verstappen that have many questioning the German racer.
Incident with Verstappen
Trying to hold onto third, Rosberg seemingly drove straight into a corner like in Austria, giving Max no room. Rosberg came over the radio and said his steering locked up after turning it hard to the right. The camera right above him told a different story, showing that he drove straight before turning his wheel late. Many came out and labeled him a liar and some questioned his ability to drive under pressure. Max Verstappen put it best during the post-race interview when asked about the incident: “Lewis knows.”
In his defence, Nico Rosberg has proven himself as an amazing F1 driver. As one commentator put it: if Lewis has the natural ability to drive a car, Rosberg is one of the most technical drivers in the field. He has proven time and again that he can hold the lead and pick up a victory for Mercedes. However, this season has seemingly pushed Rosberg to his breaking point, showing that he cracks under pressure. Nico Rosberg’s 2016 season has been extremely detrimental to Rosberg’s image and his standing with the fans. Rosberg is seen as not only being on the cusp of winning his first world championship, but also as a man that the FIA has gone light on and a liar. His character has gone through a major fall from grace that will take a lot of time and effort to recover.