Finnish blood races through veins of new F1 star Rosberg

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2006, 12:00am

You may be wondering how Finland produces so many great Formula One drivers (and some decent rally drivers to boot). I believe I may be able to explain this from personal experience. A few years ago I visited a particularly beautiful part of this Scandinavian country. It was winter, and although the locals were telling me it was a mild week, it was still well below freezing and thick with snow.

A friend was driving us back into town through the tree-lined countryside at some speed when a tractor pulled out in front of us. Without touching the brakes he snapped the steering wheel one way and then the other and carried on speeding up the road. Admittedly he had spikes on his BMW tyres, but even so as death defying driving on ice goes, it wasn't bad.

I'm pretty sure driving on this kind of road is what has thrown up such talents as Mikka Hakkinnen and Kimi Raikkonnen. And now Nico Rosberg. Now technically he grew up in Monaco and is German. But his dad Keke is Finnish, so those genes have definitely been passed on. Keke Rosberg won the world title in 1982 for Williams. Last week in Bahrain he stood next to his son on the grid as he prepared for his F1 debut.

Dad didn't need to worry about how his son was going to fare. Admittedly the first lap didn't go too well. A spin and resulting pit stop put him at the back of the field, but after that the fireworks started. He chalked up the fastest lap of the race, and charged up the field. The dummy he sold Christian Klein before overtaking him into seventh place was perhaps the most exciting moment of the race. And this was from the lad who said before the season started: 'It's difficult to overtake. I was driving behind some people in testing, and it's impossible.'

Two points on debut has got people taking notice. Former world champion Sir Jackie Stewart called it 'the best performance of any young driver for a very long time'. His dad was moved to call it 'phenomenal'.

We shouldn't be too surprised. This young man has crammed a lot into his 20 years. He won the GP2 series last year and Formula BMW in 2002. He's bright too, speaking four languages and if he wasn't driving he could be studying for a degree in aerodynamics. Smart as well as fast is a promising combination. The performance of Rosberg reflects well on his boss, Sir Frank Williams. Some wondered if Williams was a spent force after BMW departed to buy up Sauber. But the new Cosworth engine is performing beyond expectations, and in hiring Nico, Sir Frank is living up to his reputation as a shrewd operator.

With Mark Webber finishing sixth in Bahrain this could be a better year for the British based outfit than their fans could dared to have hoped for.

There is a historical precedent too. The last man to record the fastest lap in his debut race was Jacques Villenueve, 10 years ago. He was also driving a Williams and went on to win the world championship for the team.

With all the plaudits ringing in his ears, you could excuse Rosberg junior for getting carried away. Don't bet on it though. As well as having the sage advice of his dad during this season, he can also rely on his dad's Finnish temperament. He admits to being 'quite pessimistic'.

It's not an ideal quality in life in general, but when it comes to motor racing, keeping your feet firmly on the ground can be vital. It's helped Nico Rosberg win points in his first race. Don't be surprised if a podium follows soon. Further down the line there will be a race win and in my opinion a world championship. And although the German national anthem will play, bear in mind he is very much a Finnish racer.