Lewis Hamilton has finally climbed to the top of the standings in Formula One, despite being challenged by never-ending mechanical failures, while Nico Rosberg’s season keeps on floundering. Rosberg has given up a 43-point lead, and now trails his team-mate Hamilton by 19 points, a remarkable 62-point turnaround by the world champion. This speaks volumes about the attitude and mentality of Hamilton, no mountain is high enough for this Brit, but where does that leave Rosberg? Is he going to find his early-season form? Or is his season too forgone already to get back on track?
“Hamilton has taken the lead, Rosberg has made a very bad start and he has already down to 4th”, bellowed the race presenter as Ricciardo and Verstappen raced ahead of Rosberg before turn 1. The German did not get any opening throughout the race as he kept tailing the Red Bull drivers. He only managed to reach 2nd place for a very short while after the pit-stops, after making a delicate move on Verstappen. The racing authorities deemed the move too risky and slapped a 5-second penalty on the hapless Rosberg. It was further increased to an 8-second penalty as the stewards had mistimed the move on their stopwatch, after which Rosberg could not recover his starting position.
Back in May at Barcelona, where wonderkid Max Verstappen broke multiple records in F1 before the race began the Mercedes drivers were at different crossroads. While the German was cruising, the Englishman was struggling. Rosberg was leading Hamilton by 43 points, it was an imposing statement. Rosberg was here, finally. He had just equalled the record of winning the first 4 races of a season, earlier set by Michael Schumacher, and he was at the first grid at Barcelona. But at the very first lap of the race, Rosberg collided with Hamilton, and their race ended with both of them retiring. Since then, Hamilton went on to win six of the next seven races, while Rosberg has managed only 3 podium finishes, with one win, a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
Now it would surely be too blatant to predict that the championship table would stand exactly as it does now. Rosberg is surely one of the best drivers at present, on par with the Hamiltons and Vettels. But his performance in the past 4 races since the European Grand Prix at Baku has his critics question his willingness to win. Surely Hamilton may falter in the coming races at Belgium and Italy, but no one will ever question his hunger for gold. Whereas Rosberg’s passiveness makes us ask, is he happy playing second fiddle to his teammate-cum-rival. The young duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen at Red Bull have shown marvellous improvement, in that they managed to keep Rosberg experienced off the podium, despite their age and inexperience. They will keep putting pressure on the Mercedes drivers for the remainder of the season, and their performance on the tracks tell us that Red Bull will be a much stronger contender next season. Rosberg has to up the ante at Belgium and matches Lewis Hamilton not only as a rival racer but as a sportsman who has the drive and hunger to win against odds. Will he be able to live to the challenge of winning his maiden title, the possibility of which, although fading, is still alive?