Nico Rosberg has come out strongly in a fantastic interview today by my colleague Frederic Ferret in L’Equipe sports newspaper in France, claiming that he is not afraid of going up against a driver he considers the “best driver ever”.
But Rosberg uses the interview to set the record straight on how he has had assurances from Ross Brawn of equal equipment and treatment from the team and on why he was happy to yield and let Schumacher have race number three.
“It’s (the winter) been…how shall I say this? Interesting.” said Rosberg. “But to tell you the truth it hasn’t been easy to live through. I signed with Brawn, but there remained the uncertainty over the Mercedes buyout. That was very important to me, it made the move from Williams make sense. I thought I was going to be Button’s team mate, then he went to McLaren and I was really surprised. At that time there was no talk of Michael.
“In motor sport you need a reference and this is unbelievable – I’ve got the very best there is next to me – you couldn’t dream for more. I’ve nothing to lose. I’ve got THE reference point in F1 – in ten, or even fifty years from now people will be talking about Michael Schumacher. And the most important thing is that we will have equal equipment.”
On this point Rosberg says he is certain. He’s had detailed discussions with Ross Brawn on the subject,
“I know he (Schumacher) is his friend and it was important to clarify the situation and erase all doubts which might fester in the team. I’ve got the weapons to fight against the best driver off all time.”
Rosberg also makes his first comment on the subject of Schumacher requesting a swap to take the ‘lead car’ number 3, for reasons of superstition. The younger man turns the situation around and says that he’s not the one with the superstitions, in other words there are no such chinks in his armour.
“When I win in Bahrain – that’s my goal – no-one will care any more about the numbers on the cars.”
Rosberg will be given the honour of being the first driver out of the garage to test the new Mercedes on February 1 in Valencia. After that they will both be given exactly equal time in the car before Bahrain.
Rosberg says that he has yet to speak to his new team mate, some four weeks after Schumacher was announced and that the last time they spoke was in 2006. The pair are not scheduled to meet until they are unveiled together on Monday at the official Mercedes launch in Stuttgart.
Although Nico has a sure footed PR touch here, no doubt the German media will be working on digging up the many uncomplimentary things Nico’s father Keke has said about Schumacher over the years. He has been one of his harshest critics.
Rosberg’s line today backs up the intervention from Mercedes boss Norbert Haug yesterday in the German media, where he said that Rosberg, “Has always wanted to drive the Silver Arrows in Formula One, and have Michael Schumacher as his teammate. That may sound like a fabulous PR statement, but it is precisely the truth.
“To be a team’s No.1 is done only through extraordinary effort, and I trust that both of our drivers will give this, especially if we give them a very good car.”