Monaco Grand Prix - epilogue


A sizeable jam developed behind Sergio Pérez’s buckled McLaren towards the closing stages of the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, but it was nothing compared with the race’s immediate aftermath. The principality grinds to a complete halt as soon as its roads reopen, with motorists flocking to queue on hallowed asphalt while teams attempt to manoeuvre trucks between the chaos. The pavements aren’t much better, with punters struggling to make themselves heard above thudding basslines from open bar windows. Monte Carlo prides itself on style and elegance, but has a firm handle on loud and vulgar, too.

It was all rather a contrast to the calm control Nico Rosberg had shown during the previous couple of hours.

Much of the post-race debate centred on the sanctions Mercedes-Benz might face in the wake of its “secret” three-day tyre test in Barcelona, which rival teams believe breached F1’s sporting regulations. Following a protest from Red Bull and Ferrari, that matter has been referred to the FIA for further consideration.

The controversy deflected focus from a particularly fine drive by Rosberg – especially given the chaotic manner in which the race evolved, with two safety car periods and one red-flag interruption. He’d been quickest throughout practice, took his third straight pole position and never once allowed his focus to waver amid the pandemonium.

This was not, though, a glorious, high-speed demonstration. For parts of the afternoon, in fact, it was quite the opposite. From laps three to seven, the race leader lapped in 1m 23.767s, 1m 22.504s, 1m 22.302s, 1m 22.516s and 1m 22.414s respectively. All very neat and consistent, but at the rear of the field – following a first-lap stop for a replacement front wing – Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde’s parallel sequence ran 1m 22.390s, 1m 21.674s, 1m 21.201s, 1m 21.413s and 1m 21.498s. That pattern continued for a few more laps, too, the bloke at the back driving as quickly as he could while the leader nursed his tyres – not so much the pursuit of excellence as an object lesson in moderation. By way of reference, Dutchman Nigel Melker’s fastest lap during the morning’s Formula Renault 3.5 race was a 1m 23.592s and the quickest GP2 drivers posted low 1m 22s during their two events…

But back to Rosberg, a driver whose credentials I’ll admit to having questioned. Several times, in fact.

Cast back your minds to the autumn of 2004. After 20 seasons, the FIA Formula 3000 Championship was on the cusp of being put to sleep but teams used their old chassis to evaluate drivers ahead of the forthcoming GP2 Series. And Rosberg featured on several shopping lists.

In his second year of European F3, the German had finished fourth in the championship, behind Jamie Green, Alexandre Prémat and Nicolas Lapierre but two points clear of rookie Lewis Hamilton. Next stop: Jerez, where he had a couple of test appointments.

He performed well enough, but feedback was mixed. One team principal (whose judgment I trusted, and still do) told me the 19-year-old looked competent rather than exceptional, while another spoke as though he’d just stumbled across the new Tazio Nuvolari. In the end Rosberg didn’t sign for either party, but instead joined ART. It was soon clear that this was the team of the moment, but he didn’t waste the opportunity and went on to win the inaugural GP2 title. Next stop: Williams.

Rosberg is articulate, fluent in several languages and disposed to reading books about economic theory, to help him gain a broader understanding of the world he will embrace beyond his racing career.

During seven seasons in F1 he has occasionally looked similarly bright on the track – particularly at street circuits, which are traditionally a solid barometer – but at other times his performances have been borderline ordinary. Perhaps, though, we are now seeing consistent glimpses of the truth.

This might be the real Nico Rosberg, but it’s harder to claim the same about F1.

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