2011 F1 driver rankings no.4: Nico Rosberg

2011 F1 season review

Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Rosberg beat Schumacher once again

Nico Rosberg continues to keep his illustrious team mate well-handled and continues to get too little credit for it.

Rosberg’s margin over Schumacher was reduced in their second year at Mercedes, but that was only to be expected.

In particular the scale of Rosberg’s superiority in qualifying was overwhelming. He was only beaten by his team mate on merit once all year.

In a car seldom deserving of better than seventh, Rosberg qualified there or better 15 times. There’s no doubting which driver put the W02 where it belonged on the grid.

That tended to inflate expectations of what Rosberg could achieve on race day beyond what was realistic. The car was rarely up to beating a Ferrari over a stint.

On race day the W02s tended to gravitate towards their ordinary position in the pecking order. For Schumacher that meant making up lost ground. For Rosberg that meant losing places he had little chance of keeping, particularly in the new DRS era.

Beat team mate in qualifying 15/17
Beat team mate in race 7/13
Races finished 17/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 615/873

Belgium was a case in point. He made the start of the year to take the lead from fifth on the grid. But it was only a matter of time before the faster cars slipstreamed past him.

He ended up being passed by his team mate when a safety car period contrived to leave Rosberg leading the pair of them on the harder, slower tyres.

Similarly, he did an admirable job of holding Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa back in Korea before bowing to the inevitable.

Another fine drive in China, where he led for 14 laps, was ill-rewarded when he had to drop back to save fuel as the team had put too little in the cars. He was holding off eventual winner Lewis Hamilton when he received the instruction to back off.

Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Leading under pressure at Spa

Rosberg scored in 11 of the last 12 races, only missing out on the points when he was taken out by Vitantonio Liuzzi in Monza.

The growing battle between the two Mercedes drivers was exemplified in a fraught first-lap encounter in Abu Dhabi. The pair raced wheel-to-wheel as if they were fighting for the world championship on the last lap of the race, not sixth place on lap one.

Rosberg prevailed, and led Schumacher home while finishing within two seconds of Massa. This put him on course to finish seventh in the drivers’ championship.

This was a somewhat inevitable result – but it’s hard to see how anyone else might have finished higher given the same machinery.

Rosberg’s unobtrusive style does not win him the kind of acclaim enjoyed by more spectacular drivers. But it continued to serve him very well in 2011.

F1 Fanatics on Nico Rosberg

Very rarely made mistakes, and often seen dicing with the front runners, like in China and Belgium, where he led.
David A

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Valencia, 2011

Started seventh, finished seventh: Valencia was a typical race

A win must be soon for him surely, led in Belgium after a great start.

Challenged for the lead on several occasions throughout the year but was let down by yet another mediocre Formula 1 car. I?m hoping Mercedes can lift their game and provide him with something that allows him to show his talent.

He?s still improving and seems to be bringing home the maximum points Mercedes are able to achieve each weekend, although we?re yet to see a truly inspired drive from him, which is worrying for a supposed top line driver in his sixth season.

Always there or thereabout after the big three teams lock out the major points positions. Beat his vastly improving seven-time world champion team mate.
Colossal Squid

Nico Rosberg 2011 form guide

2011 F1 season review

Browse all 2011 F1 season review articles

Images ?? Daimler

Advert | Go Ad-free


116 comments on 2011 F1 driver rankings no.4: Nico Rosberg

  1. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 14th December 2011, 13:35

    I have mixed feelings. I’m afraid Rosberg is on his way to become another Heidfeld. Then again, his “illustrious teammate” is not so illustrious second year in a row, therefore beating Schumacher is not such a feat as we now know we should not expect from Michael as much as we did in his Ferrari Era. Sometimes the driver’s results are not spectacular, but the performance of the man behind the wheel is. Kovalainen is IMO such case, not Rosberg. Heikki’s performance was limited by the machinery at his disposal, with Nico I have a strong feeling he has reached his own limit and with better car he would not have significantly better results. To sum up, in my ranking Rosberg is certainly not top-5.

  2. Maciek (@maciek) said on 14th December 2011, 13:35

    I think that comments about Rosberg being ‘anonymous’ this year are misguided. If we saw less of him, it was only because he consistently qualified as well as the car could conceivably do and then ably held the position without being able to touch the frontrunners (because of the limitations of his machinery). I also think that some people have simply pigeonholed Rosberg since the ‘Britney’ days as somehow not up to snuff, as if physiognomy had anything to do do with racecraft. A final thought: the performance of the Mercedes – safely behind the big three, safely ahead of the others – probably masked what is in fact a worrying peformance gap between the top and the mid-tier teams, which is now set to only grow with the likely abandoning of the RRA.

    • cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 14th December 2011, 14:14

      This argument that if you qualify the car well, you shouldn’t race onwards just doesn’t add up.

      Look at Schumacher in Monza. Qualified 8th, finished 5th. Beating a Ferrari.
      Or in Japan. Qualified 8th, finished 6th. Beating a Ferrari.
      Or in Canada. Qualified 8th, finished 4th. Beating a Ferrari.
      Or even India. Qualified 12th, finished 5th. Beating a his team-mate and a McLaren.

      So maybe now we can all stop this argument that qualifying well justifies poor race performance.

      • Maciek (@maciek) said on 14th December 2011, 14:30

        Hold on a sec there, seems to me you’re putting words in my keyboard, as it were. I never said anything like that a driver shouldn’t “race onwards” or that qualifying well justifies poor race pace. What I am saying is that he was not nearly as ‘anonymous’ as some people seem to think – if we saw Schumacher more on our TV screens, it was mostly due to his having to make up for under-par qualifying, which Rosberg usually did not have to do.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th December 2011, 14:33

        Who is @cduk_mugello arguing with? Who has said that “if you qualify the car well, you shouldn’t race onwards” or “qualifying well justifies poor race performance”?

        • TheBrav3 said on 14th December 2011, 15:49

          MANNNNNNNNNNNY people including your self several times.

        • cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 14th December 2011, 16:01


          Who is @cduk_mugello arguing with?

          Is that a question to the floor or directly at me?

          First, I’m not arguing with anyone, it’s a debate. No hard feelings mate ;)

          As you’ll notice, I didn’t actually use quotation marks – I was paraphrasing.

          That tended to inflate expectations of what Rosberg could achieve on race day beyond what was realistic. The car was rarely up to beating a Ferrari over a stint.

          It’s sentences like that, and many others over the year by plenty of people, that give the impression of an argument that because Rosberg qualifies disproportionately highly, he need not finish ahead of cars in front to be considered as having a good drive.

          Of course, it’s all implicit. We could all play a de-constructionist game and ask who said exactly that.

          Anyhow, I was merely pointing out that Merc drivers could finish ahead of Ferraris and McLarens. The fact that Schumacher finished 4th and 5th more times than Rosberg speaks volumes.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th December 2011, 16:10

            I was paraphrasing

            Paraphrasing is when you change the words but not the meaning.

            You either changed the meaning or quoted someone else. In the absence of the latter it can only be the former.

          • cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 14th December 2011, 19:46

            I’m not looking for a lesson in the English language. This is just petty.

            Like I said, I’m not quoting. There is no quote:

            It’s sentences like that, and many others over the year by plenty of people

            Anyhow, carry on picking apart the words I use rather than what I’m saying.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th December 2011, 18:47


        This argument that if you qualify the car well, you shouldn’t race onwards just doesn’t add up.

        Hypothetical example in the same car:

        Qualifying 3rd, finishing 3rd > Qualifying 11th, finishing 5th.

        • cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 14th December 2011, 19:49


          Obviously, you have to take each example on its own merits. After all, you can’t better qualifying first and finishing first!

          My wider point is that Rosberg qualifying in 7th and finishing in 7th doesn’t always represent a great drive.

  3. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 14th December 2011, 14:20

    I think what counts against Rosberg is that, especially in the second part of the year, he didn’t quite seem to get as much out of the tyres on Sundays as Scumacher did. A familiar sight would be Rosberg ahead, with Schumacher behind (because of poor start of midfield troubles) but slowly closing in on him.

  4. Very nice piece on an issue that is not brought out on television! Nico should be given a lot of credit for his consistency compared to Schumi this year!

  5. 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 14th December 2011, 14:50

    Nico is an interesting one for me.
    I’ve often felt in qualy he does a good job ad occasionally beats Massa, which shouldn’t happen really.
    But in the races he’s going backwards (maybe down to being passed after good qualy/good starts) but he’s the sort that is a 7.5/10 driver. Rarely has off days but rarely does something that makes me think Wow!
    Maybe the car is the limiting factor for him, it will be interesting if Mercedes with their new staff can build a car capable of challenging for the top 3

  6. And1star (@and1star) said on 14th December 2011, 14:59

    At my opinion, Rosberg is the best all-around driver in the F1 at this moment. He always performs well, gets better and better, does what he has to do. But there’s one problem with him: you never see him. He’s always decent, but not spectaculary good or fighting his ass out for the lead. No, he’s always driving great, but that’s it. He needs a win and a good car, not a mediocre car. I agree with journeyer to place him 6th or 5th, but not higher.
    The best word to describe him is: mediocre, still a great driver though.

  7. Leftie (@leftie) said on 14th December 2011, 15:03

    Also i think often people forget about approach factor. Rosberg almost always got the maximum in qualifying and then went back in a race, while Schumacher almost always did the opposite. Had it not been about colliding in midfield we would be talking about Nico losing to Michael on points. Yes, that’s “what if…” talk right here, i know. But.

    Remember Algersuari talking about sacrificing qualifying in favor of strong race pace? Same pattern here, i reckon. Michael deliberately didn’t bother with qualifying pace much, focusing on the long runs and i think he was right, even if he was forced to battle with people who would rather collide than let Schumacher through – he still remains a trophy to most of the field. But some of the moves were misjudged by the man himself, i must admit.

  8. Alain (@paganbasque) said on 14th December 2011, 15:09

    Rosberg has proved again that he is amazingly fast, he made no mistake in q3 and he was regularly fast in the races, but sometimes he seems that lacks something to be a true top-driver, a winner.

    He has beaten Schumacher again but with a small margin, Michael seems to be faster than him in the races but he has made more mistakes and his qualifying level is low, with less incidents Nico could have been beaten by Michael.

    Next season I expect a greater competence between them, hopefully with a car to achieve podiums and victories. Then, we will see the real level of the young driver.

    • Estesark (@estesark) said on 15th December 2011, 0:00

      He’s not really that young any more. If the remaining seats for next season are taken by Paul di Resta, Nico Hülkenberg (both Force India), Adrian Sutil (Williams), and Jaime Alguersuari (HRT), there will be ten drivers on the grid younger than him, and a few others of very similar age. He’s only a couple of retirements away from being one of the sport’s senior drivers – even if he will look fourteen years old forever.

  9. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 14th December 2011, 15:10

    I honestly don’t understand the backlash to putting Rosberg 4th. He had a midfield car that was nowhere near the top three teams. Yet people somehow expected him to get a podium or beat more thoroughly his team mate, widely considered to be one of the greatest drivers of all time!

    He should have smashed his feet through the floor of the car and started running Fred Flintstone style.

    • Agreed. I think its the Schumi fans who are the most unhappy. Kudos to Keith for making this list, its far different than mine but well justified.

      • Leftie (@leftie) said on 14th December 2011, 17:59

        Dunno. I’m a Schumacher fan since 96 and i think it’s fully justified to place Nico ahead of Michael in the list. But i don’t think Nico was better than Hamilton this year, for example. And i don’t think top 4 is where he should be, for that matter.

        This list is largely based on car capabilities and areas of the grid drivers usually found themselves racing at, more than i would take into consideration while compiling. But seeing different perspective is always nice, so thanks for your work Keith.

        • Everyone has their opinion, I respect that but I can’t accept the over exaggeration for some of the comments. Having Hamilton in front of Rosberg is acceptable for me as well, but some people are suggesting that they Keith should have put Petrov, Kobayashi etc. ahead of him. Thats the pathetic part.

        • Everyone was better than Hamilton this year. If he’d been in a Red Bull he’d have thrown away the championship with this season’s erratic driving. Hamilton should be a lot lower. Definitely lower than Kovalinen for example who consistently outdrove his car. By comparison Hamilton overdrove.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th December 2011, 18:50

        I’m a huge Schumacher fan, but I can give Rosberg credit where credit is due. Shame other fans can’t do the same.

        • And shame the hater or AntiSchumi or whatever(obviously not you David A) couldn’t give credit to Schumacher where it’s due too. As for the list i’ll put Hamilton 4th and Rosberg 5th, that’s me.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 16th December 2011, 13:19

      @colossal-squid Because he was on the podium last year people naturally expected him to be so this year. However, in 2011, it was pretty much a given Vettel was going to be on the podium at every race whereas last year the podium had 3 positions up for grabs but this year only 2.

  10. RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 14th December 2011, 18:51

    With reliability so prominent in modern day f1 it is unreasonable to expect the forth fastest car to win or even get on the podium. Rosberg was consistent and had good 1 lap pace on all tracks.

    Beating Schumacher is easy to see, forth best may be a bit of a stretch. That said, the top three were better than him and the 5th and 6th placed drivers under-performed much more often than Rosberg. 2012 will make or break him. Mercedes have had plenty of time to work this car out, and have assembled a string technical team for next year. If the car has race-winning potential, Rosberg must unlock it. If not, he could be in real trouble of becoming the new Heidfeld, personally I hope he becomes the new Hakkinen.

  11. Again, a real surprise to see Rosberg so high up in this list. He is always renowned for his qualifying pace, but so was Jarno Trulli.

    Don’t get me wrong I am a fan of Nico (I won’t forget his amazing debut in his Williams where he finished 7th despite pitting for a nose change and setting the fastest lap) but I don’t believe he extracts the maximum of the car every weekend – certainly nowhere near the extent to what Alonso does. In other words, I don’t feel he is certainly outdriving the car. In this respect, he does remind me of a certain Nick Heidfeld.

    While there were highlights in China, first part of Belgium and Abu Dhabi, Nico was fairly beaten by Force Indias in Germany, Hungary, Singapore and Brazil, and by an STR in Korea.

    In races where both Mercedes drivers have finished it is 4 – 4. I believe if Schumacher had sorted out his qualifying he would probably beat Nico in terms of points.

  12. JustOnePint said on 14th December 2011, 20:28

    Would like to have seen NR in a Red Bull along with SV. Both have been highly consistent but not spectacular. Almost no mistakes. Both have made the absolute most of their machinery. Only, SV’s machinery was obviously much better.

    So SV gets the WDC and all the accolades and NR gets nothing. But I believe they would have been a very well matched pair and any of them could have won. In my list, SV and NR share the first place as best drivers, ahead of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. And the rest are vastly far behind.

    • Estesark (@estesark) said on 14th December 2011, 21:07

      I think Rosberg would be a good replacement for Mark Webber, when he eventually leaves the team or retires – but it won’t happen. I have no doubt that he would score consistently, pick up plenty of podiums and the occasional win, but if today’s Toro Rosso announcement is anything to go by, Red Bull don’t want another driver like that; they are looking for something exceptional.

      I’m not yet convinced that Rosberg is exceptional, though a victory in 2012 would do wonders for him. As well as giving him a huge confidence boost, it would finally cement his place as the Mercedes GP team leader; someone they can build around after Schumacher’s re-retirement.

  13. Mouse_Nightshirt (@mouse_nightshirt) said on 14th December 2011, 21:22

    Nico Rosberg continues to keep his illustrious team mate well-handled and continues to get too little credit for it.

    A truer line never said. I think you have it bang on Keith, as the comments are clearly showing. He’s quietly being relatively successful. I think the only thing missing in his career is a benchmark. I really don’t think Schumacher is that useful a benchmark as we have no idea how he relates to anyone anymore other than Rosberg.

  14. I agree with everyone saying Rosberg was not as impressive as he was last year. Should not be rated this high. In comparison to his team mate he faded in the second half of the season. If you qualify higher than your team mate, he shouldn’t be able to finish ahead of you as often as Schumacher did.

  15. LHFANATIC said on 15th December 2011, 4:26

    Absolute garbage!
    What did Nico do that puts him above Hamilton? Hamilton got pole in a car that his team mate (ranked 2nd probably ) failed to do. Hamilton won races and showed more racecraft than Nico. Granted he ran into alot of trouble but he was the better driver between the 2.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 15th December 2011, 11:14

      Hamilton took 1 pole, but squandered numerous others he should have had- Abu Dhabi, Monaco, Japan, Hungary.

      And as you said, Lew got into too much trouble compared to Nico, which counts against him.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 16th December 2011, 17:07

        And I think the main point is that LH was in a top 3 car…in fact…top 2…NR was in a distant 4th place car…LH squandered a top 2 car too often…NR maximized a distant 4th place car with rock solid consistancy. With a 7 time WDC as a teammate that could have had other drivers shaking in their boots.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.