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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON… BUT NOT ENTIRELY

At the age of 31, Nico Rosberg has become the 32nd World Champion in Formula 1’s 67-year history, and the third German to win the title.

At the age of 31, Nico Rosberg has become the 32nd World Champion in Formula 1’s 67-year history, and the third German to win the title.

Nico is also the second Rosberg to see his name engraved on the trophy: his father Keijo – better known as Keke – was the first when he became the sport’s 20th World Champion back in 1982.

‘I’m very, very proud, of course, to have done the same feat as my dad achieved. He’s coming here in half an hour or so, I think, and it will be very exciting to see him. My mum’s going to be coming with him, the whole family together, it’s going to be wonderful.’

After the Hills, Graham and Damon, the Rosbergs are the second father-and-son pairing to win the sport’s most coveted prize. A closer look at their F1 careers is an enjoyable exercise in both nostalgia and up-to-the-minute news.
Keke Rosberg took part in his first World Championship race in South Africa in 1978 at the age of 29, racing for Theodore.

That was a one-off appearance for one of F1’s many short-lived teams: Theodore did not figure again until 1981, by which time Keke was with Fittipaldi.

Nico came into the sport in 2006 with one of the giants of Formula 1, Williams, for whom he set fastest race lap on his debut in Bahrain in what was the opening race of that season.

Keke too raced for Williams between 1982 and 1985. In his first season he posted his maiden GP victory in the ‘Swiss’ Grand Prix, run at Dijon in France. At the age of 33, it was his 49th start, and along with five other podium finishes it was enough to make him World Champion.

In four seasons with Williams Keke started 62 times, won five races, was on pole four times and set three fastest laps before a final season with McLaren in 1986. All of his F1 wins came at Williams; none of Nico’s did.

In his own four seasons with Williams Nico started 70 times, didn’t win or take pole, and set two fastest laps before going to Mercedes in 2010. Nico’s first race win came in his 111th F1 start in China in 2012; he was 26.

The world title apart, Rosberg father and son share one other cherished motor racing memory. On May 26, 2013, Nico won the most prestigious race on the F1 calendar, Monaco. Thirty years and 11 days before, on May 15, 1983, Keke Rosberg had won the Monaco Grand Prix. But Nico has gone on to win twice more on the streets of Monte Carlo, in 2014 and 2015.
The fundamental difference between them is that Keke raced under the flag of his native Finland; Nico opted instead to use the German nationality he took from his mother, so he follows Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel as World Champions from that country.

Keke raced 114 times, Nico now has 206 Grands Prix on his CV, from which he has taken 23 wins, 30 poles and 20 fastest laps, so the bragging rights are clearly his. One abiding memory of Rosberg Senior is his habit of grinding out a cigarette, growling ‘Let’s do it’ and climbing into the cockpit.

Rosberg Junior is a non-smoking, urbane, thoroughly modern young man who speaks many languages with the same apparent fluency. One, obviously, was as eloquent as the other behind the wheel.

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