Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Nico Rosberg: Top class or over-rated?

After beating Michael Schumacher in the last two seasons, Nico Rosberg is now very highly rated amongst the F1 community. In the penultimate installment in my opinion series on the grid's best drivers, I ask if he is actually top class, or just over rated.

This young German driver has just had another very strong season, beating Michael Schumacher in the Championship for the second year running. Rosberg is clearly talented then, as not anyone beats Schumacher two years in a row. Because of these results, and his overall career, Rosberg is becoming very highly rated, with people stating him to be one of the best on the grid. For me, it depends how many drivers can be categorised in the "one of the best" category. Most would agree that the top three in no particular order would be Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, but how many more drivers are categorised in that section? And what do you have to do to get in that category? And finally, is Rosberg in this category? Is Rosberg top class?

Rosberg has had some very good moments
Rosberg is clearly a talented driver, and no-one can argue with that. There are multiple examples of him performing well, he finished 2nd in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, in a terrible Williams car. In the same year, he drove a superb race in Australia, finishing 3rd with a brilliant drive. When he left Williams at the end of 2009 and joined Mercedes in 2010, everyone was expecting him to do well, particularly as Mercedes were the rebranded 2009 champions, Brawn GP. It was known towards the end of the 2009 season that Rosberg was joining Mercedes, but when it was announced that Michael Schumacher was joining the team, most expected him to get a thrashing at the hands of the seven time world champion. No-one gave Rosberg a chance against Schumacher, and I suppose, that was to be expected, when possibly the greatest driver of all time was going up against someone who had only being in F1 since 2006. However, when Rosberg out-qualified and out-raced Schumcher in the first race of 2010 at Bahrain, some were surprised. However, it was a sign of things to come, and Rosberg took three podiums, in Malaysia, China and Britain, while Schumacher got none. 2010 was a great year for Rosberg and a good start to his Mercedes career. However, towards the end of 2010, there were hints that Schumacher was getting closer to Rosberg, and so most, including myself, expected him to beat Rosberg in 2011. This didn't happen, with another consistent and strong season from Rosberg earning himself 7th place in the championship. His drive in China was brilliant, with Rosberg leading some of the race. Also Belgium, Rosberg's start was phenomenal, taking the lead from 5th on the grid with a simply flawless getaway. So he obviously does have talent, as these examples show.

For me, Rosberg still has a lot to do
The example most people use when I ask them "Why do you rate Nico Rosberg?" is that he has beaten Michael Schumacher two seasons in a row. This is a fact, and I touched upon it in my previous paragraph. However, in my opinion, with Michael Schumacher in his current state, I don't think its that difficult to do. Schumacher clearly isn't the driver he was, and at the end of the day, he is 43 years old. I think lots of drivers could beat a 43 year old, not just Rosberg. People put Rosberg in the "world class" or "top class" category of drivers, and is that really the case? The thing that makes Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button so good is that they are capable of impressing in a poor car. I know he's impressed a lot of people in his career so far, but he's not greatly impressed me yet. And the key word in that sentence is yet. I've no doubt that he could impress me in the future, and maybe he could be a world class driver at some point, but for me, it takes a lot to be a world class driver.

And right now, Nico Rosberg doesn't have the talent or ability of the world class drivers on the grid. I don't even think he's the best driver at Mercedes. Nico Rosberg is very talented, I'm not doubting that, what I am doubting is if he will ever live up to the hype which surrounds him. Nico Rosberg is a good driver, but not a world class driver.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the six world champions on the grid, as well as three other drivers in top teams, in articles like this, as we prepare for the start of the season.

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