Whether Nico Rosberg can turn his newly-found top form into a title challenge in 2016 has become a hot topic for the forthcoming winter period. "Three wins and six poles in a row," he declared in his latest column for the German newspaper Bild. "It means I will go into next season with a strong feeling. My new Silver Arrow (2016 car) is basically a development of the current one, so I would be ready to start the 2016 season already tomorrow," Rosberg exclaimed.
Indeed, it has been an odd turnaround for Rosberg, having been comprehensively beaten to the 2015 world championship by his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Some are even wondering if the wrong silver-clad driver was crowned 2015 champion, given Rosberg's late form. "Ouch!" responded Mercedes chief Toto Wolff when that idea was posed by F1's official website. "In motor sport you have a stopwatch, and this stopwatch never lies," he said.
Indeed, Hamilton was so dominant almost right up until he sealed the crown with victory in Austin, making some wonder if Rosberg's post-title wins are simply meaningless. "The cause of this series of wins for Rosberg should be understood," said the Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport. "They (Rosberg's races) were indeed perfect, but perfectly useless." Germany's Die Welt agrees: "Only when it no longer mattered did the Briton's teammate get in front."
What is obvious, however, is that Hamilton did not consciously lift his foot off the throttle, as his desperation to beat Rosberg in Abu Dhabi demonstrated. Rosberg agrees: "I have to admit it made me happy to see my teammate resort to some desperate acts. Like on Sunday he wanted to get to the end with only one stop, and did not accept the advice of the team that he definitely would not win like that."
Wolff said Mercedes will be carefully analysing the reversal of fortunes. "There have been a lot of discussions lately about whether Nico has stepped up, whether the car has come more towards him development-wise, or whether Lewis has unconsciously just taken it a bit too easy," he said. "I have no answer to that. We have to make an audit in the next couple of weeks and analyse what happened in the last couple of races," added Wolff. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing