Whether or not Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Nico Rosberg would be a deserving world champion, should the German take the title at the end of the 2016 season, has been a hot topic of discussion amongst some F1 media outlets as well as the fans, but my question would be – if you have watched F1 previously, why are you even asking?
Rosberg has won nine races this season, a feat that only three other drivers have ever bettered across a single season, they being Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher – all multiple title winners.
Having been beaten by team-mate Hamilton for the last two years in a row, the German has taken a long hard look at himself and returned to the fray with a steely disposition. he has certainly upped his game in 2016, in a bid to overcome a man who many see as a much better talent. He has worked hard during the off-season, as well as the summer break, and come back stronger mentally this year, with added on track aggression, and for the majority of the season has even outperformed the Brit in qualifying.
The 31-year-old has also outclassed the current world champion in terms of performance at a number of races this year, particularly in Singapore where a flawless performance across the weekend from start to finish, saw Rosberg take victory in dominant style, having taken the upper hand with a stunning lap in qualifying, that Hamilton simply had no answer to.
Japan too was a brilliant measured drive from the German whilst Hamilton faltered, only able to take third. On top of all that, the German has made sure to capitalise on any opportunity that has come his way, and taken full points when it mattered.
Yes, Hamilton has had some badly timed technical failures this year, to perhaps make life slightly easier for Rosberg, that has never been under question – but there have been many seasons down the years where reliability issues have played a part in the outcome of a championship, and below are just three such instances.
2000 Formula One Season
In 2000 Michael Schumacher won his first championship with Scuderia Ferrari, after Mika Hakkinen experienced an engine failure at the United States Grand Prix, which lost the Finn valuable points with just two races remaining.
Both drivers had experienced reliability issues during the season, having to retire from two races a pieces in the first half of the year, but that third untimely failure for Hakkinen put the nail firmly in the McLaren driver’s coffin.
1983 Formula One season
The 1983 season was won by Nelson Piquet by just two points from Alain Prost, but the Frenchman had the upper hand for the majority of the way, until the final few rounds saw the Renault driver forced to retire from two out of the three remaining races, which included the finale in South Africa. Game over for Prost.
1991 Formula One Season
In 1991 Ayrton Senna won the title from Nigel Mansell, who suffered four retirements during the year, and was discounted from another due to a pit stop error by the team that saw him disqualified from the race.
Senna in comparison had just one technical issue that forced him out of a grand prix, and the Brazilian was crowned champion at the end of the year. Although he has a twenty-four point lead over Mansell, had the Williams-Renault been more reliable, it is likely the championship would have been a much closer battle.
Breakdowns and blow outs…
Reliability has plagued Formula one for many seasons, particularly during the 1980’s when less than 50% of race starters ever made it across the finish line.
The 1990’s was also a hot bed for technical retirements compared to the modern era, when engines and gearboxes were failing as quickly as a set of ultra-soft tyres run out today, and you never knew if a car would make it to the end from one race to the next.
Even more recently as 2012 we saw Hamilton endure four costly retirements, slamming his then McLaren-Mercedes team for being the reason he was not winning the championship, thanks to having a car that was clearly less reliable than his rivals.
More recently reliability has not been as prevalent in F1, thanks to the advancements in technology, but you have to remember this is a mechanical sport, where teams are pushing the boundaries on a daily basis, and due to that failures can inevitably happen.
Technical failures have always been a part of F1 life, and you cannot berate a driver who prospers because of it.
Rosberg has fought back this year with solid determination, changing his outlook and driving style, and taking each race as it comes. He has stoically stuck to his plan without veering off path or losing focus due to tempting off track distractions.
It is also worth pointing out that Hamilton’s poor starts have also helped the German take a hold on the world championship, with the Brit losing places at five races this season – in Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Italy and Japan.
Rosberg too was affected by similar issues at the beginning of the season but got to grips with the new start procedure, and updated Mercedes clutch, much quicker than his team-mate. Had Hamilton got off the line more consistently in 2016, perhaps the drivers’ standings would be different or at least much closer at this point of the season.
When it comes down to it, whoever has the most points at the end of the season will be crowned world champion, and either Mercedes driver would be worthy of that prize. No matter how those points have been accumulated, the eventual winner deserves as much appreciation as previous victors, for giving his all throughout a demanding year.
If Rosberg does hold onto the title from here, considering who he is up against for the spoils, then that resilience alone will show he has what it takes to be rightly crowned world champion.