Oct.24 (GMM) World championship leader Nico Rosberg has denied settling for second place throughout the US grand prix.
Even with teammate Lewis Hamilton having won from pole in Austin, Mercedes’ German driver can now finish second in Mexico and Brazil and third in Abu Dhabi and still win the 2016 title.
But Rosberg said throughout the weekend that he was still charging for race wins racing than ‘playing it safe’.
“No, no, definitely not,” he said after finishing second on Sunday.
“Flat out all the way to the end.
“Lewis did a great job this weekend, all the way through qualifying and race, so it just wasn’t to be,” Rosberg insisted.
However, even his bosses acknowledge that Rosberg can now afford to ease off slightly in order to keep his championship tilt on track.
“Nico is in a very good position in the world championship,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“But he also knows that he cannot afford any mistakes, which is why he was careful in the first corner.”
Rosberg, however, argued that he simply “lost out a bit at the start” in Austin, adding that he is disappointed not to have won.
“Second place is ok,” he said, “it’s damage limitation.”
Indeed, F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda thinks second place was more than good enough for Rosberg in America.
“Lewis was simply faster and drove a flawless race,” he said.
“Nico was second which is the next step in the world championship for him. Even if the other is unbeatable, he just has to be tactical.
“Lewis was unbeatable today, so Nico did everything right,” Lauda added.
But according to other figures at Mercedes, Hamilton has redoubled his efforts to fight back in the wake of his supposed Suzuka ‘meltdown’.
“Last week Lewis practiced starts in the simulator for about two hours,” one engineer told Auto Motor und Sport.
Hamilton confirmed: “It’s going well for him (Rosberg). I’ve just got to continue to do my job and hope for the best.”