MONTREAL — It’s modest, as Formula One winning streaks go:
Nico Rosberg of Mercedes has won one in a row heading into this weekend’s 44th Canadian Grand Prix, his victory two weeks ago in Monaco doubling his career winnings following a triumph last year in China.
But the 27-year-old German comes to Montreal having won three consecutive pole positions, a front-row grid spot he’d truly cherish for Sunday’s 70-lap sprint around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
This will be the 17th Canadian GP run by a Rosberg — Nico has run the past seven editions, following in the tire treads of his legendary father, Keke, who contested nine from 1978-86.
There is not a Montreal podium to show between them — Keke Rosberg finished fourth on two occasions for Williams and once more for McLaren; Nico was sixth for Mercedes in 2010 and again last year.
Nico’s win on the storied Monaco street course came, as the script required, precisely 30 years after his father’s triumph there, one of five career victories Keke chalked up in 114 Grand Prix starts.
In the blush of his Monaco win, Nico spoke respectfully of but without gushing over having repeated his father’s victory in the Mediterranean principality.
“When I was quite young watching this race, my first memory was Ayrton Senna with the yellow helmet in the red and white (car),” he told reporters afterward.
“This is the most special race for me to win. It was incredible, unreal,” he added, having dominated every practice session before breezing to victory.
“That is what is special about the sport, so unreal — all these emotions make up for the difficult moments. It’s amazing.”
But any glow felt by the Rosberg after his wire-to-wire Monaco victory wore off long ago.
“Unfortunately, yes,” he told a news conference at the Villeneuve circuit Thursday morning. “It goes quite quick in this sport. Already a couple of days afterward the focus went completely to Montreal.
“I mean, first of all understanding what we did right and wrong in Monaco, and then preparing for Montreal and trying to get the most out of this weekend.”
Rosberg has recently been waxing the qualifying tail of Mercedes stablemate Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion when he was running for McLaren, giving the Mercedes newcomer all he can handle and more in the dash for grid position.
In three Montreal races for Mercedes, Rosberg has qualified 10th, sixth and fifth.
Hamilton, who incredibly has won here three times in five races, holds the edge against his teammate this season where it counts, in points — the Brit stands fourth, with 62, with Rosberg two spots back of him with 47.
“Qualifying has been very good,” said Rosberg, the pole-sitter in Bahrain, Spain and Monaco. “Our car has been the quickest in qualifying for quite some time now. I think we just have a very, very fast car.
“So I’m confident I’ll be quite far up the grid again in qualifying here. It is a different situation a little bit. It’s lower downforce so that could mix things up a little bit.
“Different track and everything so we’ll have to wait and see, but qualifying should be good.”
Formula One is a sport of myriad statistics; dig deep enough and you’re bound to find something that relates to lunar phases and how they affect the tide of Île Notre-Dame’s rowing basin, for the benefit of the water shuttles churning in from the Casino.
So here’s a stat that was offered to Rosberg on Thursday: in Canada, he has qualified a perfect 6-0 in Canada against whomever his stablemate might be; Hamilton is a perfect 5-0.
And now the two are on the same team, and will be going head-to-head in Saturday qualifying in the same livery.
“I didn’t know that,” Rosberg said of the stat, and that can’t be a big surprise. “It’s a track I like, definitely. …
“I’m confident coming here and qualifying is going to be exciting and important also, but a little bit less important at this track (than Monaco) maybe because you can overtake and tire degradation is going to be an issue, so there’s going to be a lot happening in the race.
“But anyway, as in all tracks, even with this statistic or no statistics, it’s always a big challenge to try to be ahead of Lewis in qualifying because he’s obviously very, very quick.”
Like every man on this grid, Rosberg sings the praises of Formula One’s Canadian stop, its host city opening its arms for the event and its participants perhaps unlike anywhere on the schedule.
“The Canadian Grand Prix is always a great event as the fans in Montreal are so enthusiastic,” he said in his team’s pre-race communiqué. “The whole city really loves the race and it’s such a lively place to be over the weekend. We receive so much support out in Montreal and it’s great to see that enthusiasm.
“The circuit itself is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar and I love the challenge of driving there. It’s a very difficult layout to drive because of the low downforce levels required for the long straights and it will be tough on the tires.
“Monaco was a fantastic weekend for the team and I’m so proud of the victory that we achieved there. We’ll be hoping to maintain that momentum in Canada.”
Hamilton and Rosberg make a formidable one-two punch, no matter who punches first or second. A superb feature last month by Autosport F-1 editor Edd Straw spoke to how Rosberg was not lost in the shadow of Hamilton, as many expected he’d be this season, but indeed shining brightly.
“That is the thing I really enjoy about the sport — the competition, the challenge,” said Rosberg, quoted by Straw.
“That is why it was great to have Michael Schumacher as a teammate, a great experience for me and I was glad to have beaten him three years in a row.
“Now there is a new challenge with Lewis. It’s fresh air in the team and having him (makes me) question myself, adapt and improve.”
Rosberg is doing that by leaps and bounds, both Mercedes drivers pushing each other and the team as a whole. Nothing will test an athlete’s mettle more than having a great opponent, whether or not he’s on the other team.
The same goes for every single individual in the team’s employ.
Mercedes might now sit fourth in the constructors standings, trailing Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus. But they are far from just traffic on the Formula One grid, and a young driver with a famous name and a brilliant future is a good part of the reason for that.
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