Nico Rosberg cannot be ruled out of the running to take on Lewis Hamilton, even though the German has lost two consecutive world championships to his Mercedes teammate. That is the view of former F1 race winner turned Indycar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who stopped in at Austin last weekend to attend the US grand prix.
There, on Sunday, Hamilton wrapped up his third drivers' title with three full rounds to spare, indicating the sport is now in the midst of a clear 'Hamilton era'. Asked, however, what makes the Briton so strong, Colombian Montoya answered simply to the German newspaper Welt: "The car helps!"
"It sounds like a joke, but I'm serious. He has won ten races this season. That makes him a deserving champion, but of course he is benefitting from that car. Lewis seems to have a knack for picking the right team at the right time," Montoya, who drove for Williams and McLaren until 2006, added.
But a potential flaw in Montoya's argument is that, with the very same car and identical support from Mercedes chiefs, teammate Rosberg appears increasingly incapable of taking on Hamilton. Montoya disagrees. "I do not think that Nico is slower," he insisted. "When he is focused and his car is not giving him problems, he is just as fast if not faster than Lewis. I think the big problem for him this year was qualifying."
So when asked if he can imagine Rosberg winning a world championship whilst Hamilton is still active in F1, Montoya answered: "Yes, Nico can be world champion, I'm convinced. But he needs to change a bit and think positively. He still has three races to change the momentum of this season and he should use them," he added.
A contemporary of Montoya's, former two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen, agrees that Rosberg can now head into the final three races with his sights set on 2016. "That the championship is now over is probably a relief somehow for Nico," he told Hermes. "Now he can start to think about next season and what he has to do differently. He doesn't have to worry about if he is fast enough, but just fitting together all the pieces of the puzzle," Hakkinen added.
Finally, Montoya said he does not subscribe to the theory that F1 in the past was all rosy and the sport today is boring and predictable. "Think about when Michael Schumacher was so dominant -- who was going to be champion was at least as clear as it was this season. That's the way it is in formula one: a team always sets the pace. That being said, I think we saw a great race in Austin, with some thrilling fights," he insisted. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing