Nico Rosberg says he has worked to simplify his life and narrow his focus upon beating Lewis Hamilton for the first time in three years. Even if Mercedes dominates yet again, the all-silver driver battle could be fascinating in 2016.
That is because Hamilton dominated Rosberg for most of last season until he wrapped up the title, when the Briton admittedly let his off-track, celebrity trappings divert his focus. "Lewis slackened off at the end of last season, which got Nico those wins," 1996 world champion Damon Hill told the Times. "But that goes to show that you just can't - even if you are Lewis Hamilton - take your foot off the accelerator. Hunger and desire are really important components."
Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda observed: "Lewis is into Hollywood, the fashion shows, the Super Bowl, but when he gets into the car he is still strong. Nico is much more focused on the technical side," the F1 legend told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
And what German Rosberg also has in his favour going into 2016, Lauda acknowledged, is form. "If Nico starts as he finished last season, with pole position and a win, there could be a very interesting situation that is new for us," he said. "When Nico is in the front, it is difficult for everyone else," added Lauda.
Rosberg is even tuning up on the psychological side ahead of 2016, although it was Hamilton who took a jab at Rosberg's greying hair during a Stuttgart press conference last week. "I don't have grey hair!" Rosberg hit back in an interview with German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. "He just said that because he didn't know how else to counter what I said," the German said on Sunday.
Rosberg is emphasising the difference in approach between himself and Hamilton going into 2016, contrasting his focus with Hamilton's off-track antics. "I am even more efficient than before," he insisted. "I have directed all my energy into focusing on the sport. I want absolutely nothing to distract me. It is all these little things that count in the end," said Rosberg. "I am now fully in world championship mode."
As for Hamilton, he declared just days ago that he has no intention of lifting the throttle on his celebrity lifestyle, saying he wants his off-track time to keep matching the excitement of racing in F1. "Well then it will be a very interesting year," said Rosberg. "I'm curious about it because eventually it must be too much, right?"
And if Rosberg does keep his nose in front of Hamilton, it will have the added benefit of securing his place at Mercedes, amid the threat posed by Pascal Wehrlein. "I'm sure I will be here at Mercedes for a few more years," Rosberg said. "It just works and our cooperation is great. I've been here from day one. But Pascal is still very young. Perhaps his time at Mercedes will come." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing