After witnessing Nico Rosberg win his first F1 race in Shanghai last week, Cheryl Tay recalls the time she met the young German in 2008.
I was silently rooting for Nico Rosberg while watching the Shanghai Grand Prix last week, as the rest of my friends around me were cheering on the McLaren, Ferrari or Red Bull Racing drivers.
Let me be clear: I don’t have a favourite Formula 1 driver because I prefer to maintain objectivity when I report on them. But I admit I have a little soft spot for Rosberg. Why? He was the first F1 driver I ever interviewed in 2008.
At that time, the then-Williams team driver was participating in a radio control car competition against local youths at East Coast Park, while making an appearance for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
I had a one-on-one interview opportunity with him, but even after my slot was over, more questions kept coming up in my head and I went up to him a few more times. He never once showed an ounce of annoyance and instead, replied me each time while flashing his megawatt, heart-melting smile.
Finally there was a moment when he was taking a drink by himself, and I took the chance to ask for a photo with him. He agreed obligingly and was very patient as a fellow media friend struggled with my DSLR that he wasn’t familiar with.
While waiting, Rosberg even made small talk with me and stared incredulously at the multiple ear sticks (the transparent little sticks that you put in your piercings in place of earrings to prevent them from closing up) in my ears, wondering what they were. I laughed and explained it to him, at the same time marveling at how down-to-earth and sincere he is.
A lot of things have changed since then — in a world of fast cars and high speeds, life does go by in a quick blur at times.
Rosberg is now with the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 team, alongside legendary seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. This is the same outfit that was known as Brawn GP in 2009 and propelled Jenson Button to his world championship title before Mercedes bought it over.
Last Saturday in Shanghai, Rosberg secured his maiden pole position and followed it up with an almost effortless pole-to-flag win on race day, clinching his inaugural F1 race victory 20.6 seconds ahead of Button, now turning out for McLaren.
It took six years and 111 races before Rosberg finally got to the top of the podium. It is also Mercedes’ first F1 victory since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix — Mercedes pulled out of F1 shortly after that victory and only returned as a constructor when it bought over Brawn GP in 2009. After this buyout, the team has yet to win a race, but even then, Rosberg has been performing better than his more illustrious team-mate.
Only four other drivers have waited longer than Rosberg to win a race — Jenson won his first race after 113 races, Jarno Trulli after 117, Rubens Barrichello after 124 and Mark Webber after 131 – in the entire F1 history.
As the son of former world champion Keke Rosberg, there is a certain level of pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps. Hopefully the win in Shanghai has eased that — you should have seen how Keke proudly let out such a long shout of jubilation when his son crossed the finish line to take the chequered flag.
Putting aside my impartiality, I hope this will be the first of many more race victories for the handsome lad.
On the whole though, this season’s three races so far have thrown up three different winners. But interestingly, defending champions Red Bull Racing is still waiting for its first victory. Indeed, this season is turning out to be an interesting one, but I shouldn’t speak too soon!
*This article was first published on Yahoo!