Nico Rosberg, prior to the start of the 2009 season, was making suggestions that he is not entirely happy with his situation at the Williams team, and that perhaps when his contract is up at the end of the year, he may look elsewhere for a drive. The young German star who is recognised by many to be a rising talent in the sport quite rightly wants a race winning car. The only questions are, who will be able to give it to him, and would they want to?
The shake-up in the rules for 2009 has seen a shake-up in the usual order of the teams as well, with Brawn rising from the desperate ashes to lead both titles from the start of the year. Likewise, Red Bull have got their act together and are catching up the Brackley team with some pace. Williams however, are still somewhere on the edge of, well, I’m not entirely sure.
In free practices this season, the FW31 has been electric, and while Nico Rosberg has often found himself at the top of the timing sheet, Kazuki Nakajima hasn’t been too far behind, credit to the Japanese pilot. However, in qualifying and races, the Williams’s progress has often stalled, leaving the drivers to recover what they can from a bottom top-ten to mid-field position. On occasion Rosberg has managed to haul the car into the realms of the top four or five, but consistency is not on his nor the team’s side.
Williams currently rest in P6 in the constructors title, recently overtaken by McLaren thanks to Lewis Hamilton winning in Budapest. With the MP4-24 looking genuinely better, it would perhaps be unrealistic to expect the Grove-based squad to retake this position. However, both squad’s might be able to pass Toyota, who like Williams, seem to have their good days and their bad.
This still only puts them in P5 in the championship, and the car still doesn’t look like a winner. Conversely, the driver’s championship looks good for Rosberg at the moment, but after a quick perusal at those drivers around him and the picture suddenly looks a little bleaker. Currently in P5, Rosberg will likely lose out to Lewis Hamilton and even possibly Kimi Raikkonen by the end of the year. And with only a difference of 3 points, Jarno Trulli remains a threat.
Therefore, if Williams cannot substantially better the situation this year for their lead driver, or offer any concrete progress for next year’s FW32, Rosberg may well look elsewhere for a drive. But who might be able to give him that winning motor, and would they want to employ him?
Recently, BMW were rumoured to have Nico on their shopping list, but the news of the team withdrawing at the end of the season has paid an end to any switch from Grove to Hinwil. And after the Swiss-German team’s performance this year, BMW would have been a gamble.
Red Bull Racing are sewn up with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, and Scuderia Toro Rosso would be a poor move for the German. As would Force India, so I think we can rule these teams out. Also, I think any of the three or possibly four new teams would be a dicey move for 2010, so let’s rule those out as well.
That leaves Renault, Toyota, Brawn, McLaren, Ferrari and Nico’s current home, Williams. Renault are a possibility and I have a vague memory of Flavio Briatore offering Rosberg some praise. Renault are in a quandary at the moment with their drivers, and if they aren’t, they really need to be. Nelson Piquet surely needs to be given the elbow, and if Renault cannot dramatically improve, double world champion Fernando Alonso will be hot-stepping over to a rival team as soon as he can. Presuming of course, the contract hasn’t already been signed.
However, I don’t think Renault would be a good fit for Rosberg, they are currently performing worse than his current stable and potentially partnering Alonso could hurt Rosberg’s career. The long-term commitment is also an issue, and it would appear that Nico seems to do well in a family environment like Williams. Although there is no evidence to compare, it is just an impression I get. Toyota too would be similar in my mind. Although they currently are ahead of Williams, the FW31 is arguably a better car at the moment.
So now we’re down to the big two, staying put or the current championship leaders. And I believe this is pretty much the case for Rosberg at the moment. And if I’m totally honest, I think it can be nailed down even further. I think Rosberg is currently weighing up the loyalty issue which means staying with the team that gave him his break (and his father a world championship), or switching allegiances to McLaren.
Ferrari are happy with Felipe Massa, and perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, Kimi Raikkonen as well. And if Kimi were to leave or get elbowed, Fernando Alonso would be in red overalls before you could even blink. As for Brawn, I don’t think they’ve even thought about 2010 yet in terms of drivers. Jenson Button will likely stay on, and Rubens Barrichello will be replaced with a younger model. Certainly, that could be Rosberg, but I just don’t see it.
McLaren cannot be overly happy with Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn has won a race since joining the team, and his performance in Hungary was mildly acceptable considering it took him several races to even complete one lap. But for a team that won the driver’s title last year, they should be expecting more from their pilots. It may not please Lewis Hamilton entirely, but he needs to be pushed, and Kovalainen simply isn’t doing that.
So I believe Rosberg is currently weighing up the decision between remaining loyal, and a potential race-winning car in 2010. It’s a really tough decision as well, because being partnered to Hamilton will not be easy for the German. At Williams, he is the lead driver, but unless Nico can blast Lewis out of the water from the first race onwards, he will end up being the number two. And let’s all be honest, as good as Rosberg is, I don’t think he’s as good as Hamilton.
What would you do if you were Rosberg? Do you disagree with my summation of his options? The comments are open, so please let me know what you think…