Nico Rosberg has put himself in a world championship-winning mood, F1 experts agree.
Despite most agreeing that his teammate Lewis Hamilton has the edge in raw pace, it is Mercedes’ German driver who has scooped the most points so far in 2014.
That, in part, is due to Briton Hamilton’s two DNFs, but Rosberg has finished every single race this year in either first or second place.
“The last time I saw such consistency,” German-language commentator Christian Danner told Bild newspaper, “was Schumacher.”
Another ex-driver, David Coulthard, thinks Rosberg’s metronomic consistency in 2014 may even be a “strategy”.
“Perhaps he has decided not to take the big risks in qualifying, play it slightly steadier, minimise the chances of making mistakes,” said the BBC commentator.
But that’s not all. Gerhard Berger is sensing a new edge to Rosberg’s personality in 2014, after many were fooled by his “angel face” in past years.
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve agrees.
“Like everyone, I thought Hamilton was the ‘killer’ of the pair, but Nico is showing this season that he’s an even bigger killer.
“In the last three races he has shown that he can put the knife in the back as well,” the French-Canadian told Bild.
“And that’s what you have to do to be world champion in this business.”
Given his pace, his experience and his 2014 car, however, Hamilton cannot be written off, even though his deficit to Rosberg has blown out to 29 points.
“I just need to pull my socks up,” British newspapers quote him as saying after the Austrian grand prix, “otherwise Nico will have it.
“I have had a couple of dodgy races, so I need to get it back to how it should be,” Hamilton added.
But Coulthard, sensing that Rosberg has been deliberately avoiding mistakes, thinks Hamilton can no longer simply adopt a similar approach.
“Now the deficit in the championship has grown, it’s difficult for Hamilton to change his strategy,” he said. “He has to make sure he is winning grands prix.
“But if Rosberg does not suffer his own retirement, it is going to take a long time to claw back that gap.” (GMM)