Has Nico Rosberg ever driven any better? Has he ever been in more control of a race, and the title fight, than he is right now?
The battle between Mercedes teammates has been the main event since Formula One moved to hybrid power turbo engines, the thread that’s bound the seasons together like a story of psychological body blows and uppercuts dealt out by Lewis Hamilton to Rosberg, with the German more often than not bruised and battered against the ropes, waiting for the bell to ring so he can wipe the blood from his mouth and start again, regrouping for the next round.
He’s been here before however – remember that mild collision at Spa in 2014? The eruption of venom and accusations in the aftermath? And what about those lock-ups at Monza? In two races he went from potential champion elect to British public enemy number one; the guy’s bottled it, they said. Can’t handle the pressure and needed to play dirty, they said.
Back then he was new to the game so he had to learn the hard way. Last season was pretty much written off the moment it started – the body language and demeanour straight away in Australia told a story of a beaten man, well before wheel banging in Austin and that supposed gust of wind – but it taught him more and more about his opponent. Like a child playing a video game level, they’re stuck on over and over, Rosberg was finding his strengths and working on his weaknesses to try and conquer that final boss.
Naturally, over the same period of time options were formed. His standout performances have never been celebrated as much as Hamilton’s, but his poorer ones have been criticised more. This weekend in Singapore was different, however. It went against what we expected from the German; beating his illustrious teammate, a driver recognised as the fastest in the sport, by well over half a second is a statement of intent, one that caused such a ripple that the thought of him picking up a World Championship at the end of the season isn’t such a far-flung thought as it has been previously.
That’s three wins on the bounce since the summer break, which may have been hampered by Hamilton’s technical gremlins again, but maximising those opportunities when they arise is a champions instinct, one that Rosberg has, and one he’s using to maximum effect. A sport led by Nico Rosberg as champion into a new era of media coverage from and fan access from Liberty Media is an interesting proposition.
Form, momentum and points have all swung back into Rosberg’s favour. Race number 200 could be his most defining yet.