Nico Rosberg has extended his contract with Mercedes, for a period that will take him into his 30s. It puts to an end all suggestions that he may join Ferrari as replacement to Felipe Massa any time soon.
Rosberg was already under contract for 2012, but the new deal adds a “multi-year” term to that, likely to be three years from 2013 onwards with options. Mercedes statement claims that the 26 year old has demonstrated that “he belongs to the top group of drivers currently racing in Formula One.”
Meanwhile Rosberg himself confidently asserts that “To win in a Silver Arrow will be one of the highlights of my life so far, and I greatly enjoy helping to lead our team in our quest to become the best in Formula One. I have every confidence that the team will provide me with a winning car.”
Operationally Mercedes have been pretty slick this year, with the joint fastest pit stops and good strategies, working around the weakness of the car at using up its tyres.
But with the limitations of the car in race conditions, Rosberg has only managed twice this year to finish ahead of his starting position. Nine times he’s qualified strongly then finished lower.
The team based in Brackley, which has passed through various identities, has always struggled to consistently build a winning car. The exception was the Brawn car of 2009, which was the product of immense investment and development by Honda and a clever loophole with the double diffuser.
This will be the key to whether Rosberg can show he genuinely belongs at F1′s top table. Although his qualifying pace is certainly of a calibre to make him a contender, he has recently fallen behind Michael Schumacher in race performances and Mercedes will want to see him get back on top of his older team mate next season.
Ross Brawn clearly thinks he has it in him, “Nico has performed exceptionally well for our Silver Arrows team over the past two seasons, achieving results at the very limit of the technical capabilities of our current car, ” said the celebrated team boss.
There have been suggestions in the German media that Schumacher has also extended his deal into 2013. I think that there is a good chance he will make it a four year comeback programme, but talking to his manager Sabine Kehm in Delhi, I got the impression they would wait into next year before committing. He will definitely stay with Mercedes as an ambassador, either way.
That said Schumacher is really enjoying himself now, after a difficult first 18 months of his comeback. He has his confidence back and, like Rosberg, just wants a competitive car with which to challenge.
Timing wise it was desirable for Mercedes to announce the Rosberg deal now, as this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi is the home event for Aabar, a significant shareholder in the team and in parent company Daimler.
The Ferrari consideration is not one that will bother Mercedes now, but it is significant that two of the drivers who Ferrari considered to partner Fernando Alonso, Rosberg and Button, have now committed themselves long term at their current teams. With Ferrari’s first choice Robert Kubica in uncertain condition the Scuderia has a headache with an underperforming Massa and no potent replacements. Sergio Perez has been mentioned but he is still too young and inexperienced to get a Ferrari opportunity.