After a mixed first test of the year in Jerez, Nico Rosberg has enjoyed a far more productive week at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, even sending Mercedes to the top of the timesheets on the first day of running at the Spanish circuit.
Having completed his final stint behind the wheel of the F1 W04 this week, Rosberg discusses the recent management changes at Mercedes, his relationship with new team mate Lewis Hamilton and why he’s feeling optimistic ahead of the new season…
Q: Nico, a wind of change has swept through Mercedes in the last couple of months – how do you see the situation and what changes can you already spot?
Nico Rosberg: Well, gladly there is not much change that impacts the immediate future, because the people in charge of developing the car are staying very much the same. The impact will be in the longer term. But, of course, a lot was happening lately. Obviously the way we were, we were not good enough. That needed to be changed to give room to improve. Mercedes need to be the best in Formula One.
Q: Toto Wolff is the new kid on the block at Mercedes. How much interaction have you had with him?
NR: At the moment not much. Sure we speak. He has a workload to get through as he’s just starting up now. With time we will, for sure, have more interaction.
Q: So team principal Ross Brawn is still your immediate reference point?
NR: Yes. For sure.
Q: What can you say about the F1 W04, your new car? With Lewis Hamilton joining from McLaren, you are the only person with knowledge of how it compares to its predecessor…
NR: The car is definitely a big step forward. It feels very nice to drive with a good balance. It is a massive step.
Q: Can you identify which areas of the car have contributed to those ‘massive’ changes?
NR: Take the rear. We had massive problems with tyre heating and losing grip and all that. That seems to be history now. And that is really a massive change.
Q: How much of a shock were the first two days of testing in Jerez when the team lost a lot of running time because of mechanical problems?
NR: Okay, you have some reliability issues, but that’s why we are testing – to eliminate them. I was not worried at all and I was much more enthusiastic about the speed that we have.
Q: Speaking of speed, how welcome was your fastest lap on the first day here in Barcelona?
NR: To be honest, it is always a good feeling to be up there, no matter what people say.
Q: How was your Thursday running? Everybody seemed to be trying to put in as many laps as possible…
NR: We are improving. That is all that matters. Every test day that you are able to run the planned program is a good day. So it’s our third good day here in Barcelona.
Q: Mercedes’ Ross Brawn said that it is clear that the F1 W04 isn’t a championship-winning car yet, but that the team are working their way there step-by-step. Can you feel those steps being made?
NR: Yes, I can feel it, but you can also see the progress in the factory. It is faster, working better, taking much less time to turn things around. Of course what is visible immediately is more people are working towards our goal.
Q: Over the winter there was a fun video of you online showing you riding a bull. Viewers might have seen this as you throwing the gauntlet down to Red Bull. You came off the bull quite rapidly, though – is this an omen?
NR: Ha, I was practising to learn how to handle the bull! No one is a born master – it takes practice! The bulls are very tough to domesticate and even if there is quite some way to go, where there is a will…
Q: Your new team mate, Lewis Hamilton, is a very hard racer. That can sometimes make things difficult for his team mates. How are you going to handle this challenge?
NR: I get along very well with Lewis. We have known each other since karting times and the friendship has remained since then. Sure it will be a big challenge and competition, but what has that got to do with friendship?
Q: What do you have in common?
NR: We like to drive fast racing cars – the fastest racing cars! The silver arrow! We also like to play the guitar. I am picking that up now – Lewis already plays quite well.
Q: So you’re friends, but it’s not like you spend holidays or Christmas together…
NR: Ah, we did – even at the start of our Formula One career – so there is much to build on.
Q: The highest you’ve ever finished in the drivers’ championship is P7. Aren’t you desperate to show the world that you can do better?
NR: Of course! And the chances are there. My gut feeling tells me sooner rather than later.
Q: You’re going into your fourth season with Mercedes. Is this the first time that you’ve really thought ‘I’ve got a serious chance’?
NR: No. I already believed that last year. We had such a strong car in the winter testing and I won the third race – the Chinese Grand Prix – and then finished second in Monaco with a fast car. So it was a strong first half of 2012. Inconsistent but strong.
Q: Three wishes for 2013?
NR: I want to win races – win races and play the guitar like Keith Richards!