By Daniel Wilson.
At the end of April, we were all talking about Nico Rosberg as the man who can’t stop winning, but more recently, it seems he can. From 43 points up after his seventh consecutive race win in Russia, the Mercedes driver has been struggling and has seen his lead wiped out by teammate Lewis Hamilton – who now stands 19 points clear at the top.
In fact, Nico has only won one race in the last seven Grands Prix as his rival took the chequered flag in Monaco, Canada, Austria, Silverstone, Hungary and most recently Rosberg’s home race in Germany. So, is he still the favourite to win this year’s championship?
The truth is the answer is more complex than many would think when you glance over the title standings as F1 goes into it’s mid-season summer break.
But nobody would criticise you for saying the odds have shifted in Hamilton’s favour. The defending champion said he has surprised himself by how quickly things have turned around.
It all goes back to Barcelona, and we all know what happened there. The epic first-lap collision between Hamilton and Rosberg was arguably the lowest point of Lewis’ miserable season. But it was here where the reset button was pressed, and psychologically it seems to have affected Nico.
In the next race in Monaco, Rosberg played the gentleman role by letting his teammate through to give his team the best chance of winning the race, but the then championship leader continued falling down the order because of a lack of confidence in the car in the changeable conditions.
In Canada, he suffered at the hands of his teammate when Lewis stuck his elbows out at the start, leaving Rosberg to recover once more. But, we saw a rare mistake from the German when trying to pass Max Verstappen in the closing stages – the sign of a driver under increasing pressure?
If so, that pressure was lifted in Baku as he took his fifth win of the season, but that was handed to him in qualifying when Hamilton crashed into the wall. Up to that point, it was looking close.
Then came a packed July. Four races in five weekends, and no doubt a month to forget for Nico. He’s had every opportunity to eclipse his teammate but has failed. Whether it be a brainless last lap collision in Austria or poor getaways in both Hungary and Germany, he has not carried over his pace from qualifying into the race and has been on the receiving end of stewards penalties too.
Much of the reason Nico is in this position now is down to human error. Despite a gearbox change and a subsequent grid drop in Austria, reliability hasn’t been an issue but his race-craft has. However, despite trailing his rival by 19 points, all is not lost.
Lewis Hamilton knows he’s still facing a tough fight as a result of his problems at the start of the season. We are expecting him to take two new engines in Spa or Monza, which means he will start at the back of the grid. This will be a golden chance for Rosberg to not only claw back points but swing the momentum back in his court.
Add to that the final races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi that he dominated last year, the Mercedes man is still very much in the hunt for his first world championship.