Rosberg’s lesson in dignity

Nico Rosberg: Handled defeat with grace.

It was an act of sportsmanship surely borne of a friendship developed years ago and a fitting end to an occasionally turbulent Formula One season.

Nico Rosberg could easily have displayed numerous emotions come the conclusion to Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix other than the one that ultimately materialised.

Chasing a F1 world championship dream which had come true for his father Keke 34 years previously, the race turned into a nightmare for the 29-year-old German.

The controversial introduction of double points for the final grand prix of the campaign had afforded Rosberg a far greater opportunity of claiming the title than otherwise would have been the case.

The first step was taken on Saturday afternoon when Rosberg eclipsed rival and team-mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying, securing his 11th pole position of the year by an incredible four tenths of a second.

The second followed almost immediately after as he undoubtedly won the psychological war of words with Hamilton, for whom the tension of the occasion was often etched across his face over the weekend.

Opting to start the most important few days of his life by distancing himself from his family, believing his focus would be sharper without them by his side, proved to be a mistake.

If anything, their support would have been a welcome distraction.

By chance, a series of texts between Lewis and father Anthony post-qualifying, arguably proved to be the turning point of the weekend.

Sensing his son was struggling to cope with the pressure, Hamilton Snr swiftly booked four tickets for himself, Lewis’ step-mum Linda, brother Nicolas and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.

Their shock arrival at Hamilton’s hotel on Sunday morning sent his spirits soaring, swinging the pendulum back in his favour.

Once the five red lights disappeared to signal the start of the race Hamilton was like a man possessed, with his phenomenal reaction time of 0.2secs propelling him like a rocket past Rosberg and into a five-car length lead at the first corner.

From there, Hamilton controlled the race, keeping Rosberg comfortably at arm’s length, and barring a cruel technical issue the title looked his for the taking.

The final twist in a captivating campaign materialised on lap 23 — and it was not Hamilton, but Rosberg who was to suffer.

A failure of the ERS (energy recovery store) and with it the loss of an additional 160 horsepower, resulted in Rosberg dropping back into the clutches of those behind.

Appreciably, numerous frantic radio messages were exchanged between himself and the pit wall over the following laps in a bid to find a fix, but to no avail.

Knowing fifth place would still be enough to secure him the title should Hamilton drop out, even that slipped from Rosberg’s grasp as he slipped down the field.

Two laps from home the team called for him to retire the car, and perhaps many might have heeded such advice recognising all hope was lost.

To his credit, Rosberg had no desire to suffer such ignominy, not in the wake of what he will hopefully reflect upon as a fabulous year, even if it did not yield that which he most desired.

Rosberg wanted to see the chequered flag, and even though he was 14th and a lap down on Hamilton when he crossed the line, it was fitting he saw out the season.

The German could have expressed anger at Mercedes for the latest technical failure which had at least denied him a fight to the finish. Or he could have skulked away into the shadows, feeling depressed and frustrated a season of such rich promise after the first 12 races had evaporated into nothing.

Instead, Rosberg’s reaction was magnanimous. He stepped from his car and immediately made his way to the ‘green room’ where the top three drivers wait ahead of the podium ceremony.

It was a place he visited on 15 occasions over the past season such was his success, but on this occasion he was effectively an intruder.

Despite the on-track battles with Hamilton, notably colliding with the Briton in Belgium, and the war of words that also unfolded, there was nothing but humility in his reactions.

A congratulatory hand, a hug and a few appreciative words were offered, recognising — as he said in public afterwards — he had been beaten by the better man.

Earlier this season a picture surfaced of Hamilton and Rosberg riding unicycles together when they were teenagers and team-mates during their karting days, the former with his arm around the latter.

It harked back to better, more carefree times in contrast to the enmity which has surfaced between the pair over the past few months.

Perhaps Rosberg had those days in mind when he approached Hamilton after Sunday’s race, remembering friends will be friends.


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