Nico Rosberg was speaking to the Formula One audiences of Europe in several tongues on Saturday, but there is a man for whom he is struggling to find a word: Lewis Hamilton.
It was the British driver who took a thoroughly dominant pole position for this morning’s Japanese Grand Prix — his first at Suzuka, and one of the 71 that registered most highly because this figure-of-eight track is one of the sport’s cathedrals. Rosberg, the reigning world champion, was instead working for Sky TV a year on from his last ever race win. He is a rare caller to the paddock these days, having only been on parade at Monaco and Silverstone before showing up here.
One might have expected two old karting buddies at least to have said hello to each other. After all, as he made his way through the throng yesterday, Rosberg stopped and shook hands with most people or did the voguish driver-to-driver greeting of a double-slap bear hug. ‘I haven’t spoken to Lewis for a while,’ said Rosberg, before adding: ‘He’s all over the place.’
It goes to show how seriously relations between the pair were damaged by their bitter fight for the title last year. Rosberg could have been right in the mix again 12 months on, but instead he is as happy as a retired Larry, a father of two little girls, the latest edition, Naila, arriving only last month.
Still, the cars looked tremendously bestial around here in qualifying, a sensation borne out by the times. Hamilton’s qualifying lap was the quickest ever at Suzuka, obliterating by more than a second the mark set by Michael Schumacher 11 years ago. So does Rosberg have even a pang of regret at stopping at the end of last season, when the championship trophy was still fresh in his grasp?
‘No, I don’t at all,’ he said. ‘I watch the races but I am still on a super-high from last season and I am looking forward to my next steps. I am exploring opportunities, like doing TV work to see if I enjoy it. I am doing other new things, such as managing Robert Kubica.’
That is a reference to the brilliant Pole who injured his hand severely in a rally accident in 2011 and is soon to have a test with Williams to assess if he sufficiently recovered to return to Formula One.
‘I am very excited about this because the two best drivers I saw in my 20 years in motor racing were Robert and Lewis,’ said Rosberg. So, Rosberg can at least pay his former team-mate compliments, and he makes this semi-prediction: ‘Lewis is the strong favourite for the title. He is driving very well, the momentum is with him, the car is good.
‘You could see today getting pole here meant a lot to him, more than you might think when he has so many of them. But if he gets a bad start and Sebastian [Vettel, who will start the race from second] can get the lead down from 34 to the high-20s, you never know.’
Nothing, Rosberg notes, is ‘for sure’ — the phrase critics were quick to point out he kept on using on his Sky debut. ‘It is hard to cut that out live on air, but I am trying,’ said the champion.
Originally published at Daily Mail