By Daniel Wilson.
For the past 24 hours, and arguably all year, all the talk has been about when, not if Lewis Hamilton would win his third world championship – and yesterday, he did just that with victory in Texas.
But not much has been said on Nico’s behalf. He knows, more than anyone, how costly that error was that handed Lewis his 10th win of the season – and he held his hands up.
However, those mistakes are not new. In fact, they’ve been the story of Nico’s 2015 championship challenge, and more often than not, they’ve cost him the sort of chase he had in 2014.
Qualifying was unquestionably Rosberg’s strength last year – he took 12 pole positions to Hamilton’s 7 and the trophy that came with it. But after last season, Nico admitted he needed to improve his race-craft since he only took the chequered flag on five occasions – six fewer than his teammate.
But I’m afraid this year hasn’t really changed – and no-one can say whether he has improved or not because Lewis has simply been better on every level.
This is most evident looking at the last three races. Ever since the fly-away’s, Lewis’ quali domination has been halted and it’s Nico who has taken the last three poles in Japan, Russia and the USA – but he won none of them. And much of this has come down to another negative aspect of Nico’s season – the start.
Many of Nico’s races have been lost off the line in 2015, including in Bahrain, Suzuka and Spa – even where he wasn’t on pole.
Yes – you have to acknowledge Nico has been unlucky on occasions. He’s had one more retirement than Lewis this year. He’s had numerous set backs in practice sessions that have clearly impacted on race weekends.
But even with these set backs, Lewis has certainly had the measure of his teammate this year – and the pain of handing a third title to a teammate through an unforced error was plain to see through Nico’s body language. But don’t forget, he is clearly a team player. He could’ve easily surrendered second place to Vettel in the closing laps just to spoil Hamilton’s party (for another week at least) – but he didn’t – he held him off to secure another one-two for Mercedes.
But with Nico contracted for another two years at Mercedes, questions could now be asked whether he will see that contract out or whether he will walk away from a team he has spent the last two years watching his teammate triumph.
On the other hand, the Mercedes is still the best car on the grid by a long stretch, and leaving would not give him a better chance of claiming a first title – certainly not in the short term anyway.
I think many expect him to bounce back the way he always does, and put up another fight in 2016, but how much of a challenge he will pose to Hamilton – who now matches his idol Ayrton Senna – remains an expensive question.