Nico Rosberg’s Five Stages Of Grief


According to Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross a grieving person goes through five emotional stages, signified by the acronym DABDA.

If you read the Fleet Street press, one might get the impression that Nico Rosberg is grieving for his already lost chance of winning the 2015 F1 World Championship Title.


The first stage of grief is denial and Rosberg should be beyond this stage. Still believing that he has a chance this year would be optimistic to say the least. Nil-3 defeat in qualifying, Nil-2 in wins and Nil-3 in race finishes – the numbers are damning. Of nine free practice sessions eight have ended with both Mercedes team mates setting a time. Hamilton was faster in five of them. Nico may have believed at the start of the season that he had a second chance, but the numbers suggest: “He’s dead, Jim.”

Hamilton, free from the burden of a nagging celebrity girlfriend, is at the height of his game. He can play cat and mouse with his team mate at will. During yesterday’s Chinese Grand Prix, Lewis kept Rosberg at arm’s length just outside DRS range for the entire first stint, but when both were back out of the pits Hamilton was over four seconds up the road. Lather, rinse, repeat after the second stint. Rosberg knows he’s not fast enough to threaten his team mate and it threatens to break his will.


The anger phase was visible to anyone who bothered to look in the two press conferences on Saturday and Sunday. After the race Rosberg was furious and accused the Brit of backing him into Vettel deliberately.

There is no definitive way of knowing if this is true or not, but Hamilton might perceive the German in a slightly less competitive Ferrari the preferable opponent to his team mate in the same equipment. Then, Rosberg’s accusation carries merit.

For many, Lewis’ ego is the size of Belgium and like almost all champions before him he is willing to employ any means this side of disqualification to maximize his own result with no tear shed over the consequences for anyone else.

untitledRosberg, at least most of the time, is loyal to the team that he was part of since day one. It’s that loyalty which prevents him from employing the necessary ruthlessness to beat his team mate. What he needs to be is Dick Dastardly. Being Penelope Pitstop won’t win him any trophies and even his automatic lipstick application arm is not working properly at present, causing Nico to look rather dishevelled this year.

Rosberg tried the Dastardly approach last year in Spa, but Hamilton outfoxed him in the PR stakes, so Nico ended as less Dick D. and more Muttley instead.

The key for Nico to move on is he must convert his anger into determination. If he fails to do this, he will continue cycling through the five stages of grief.


Muttley-pictureThis is most likely the stage Rosberg is in right now. He has to bargain with a higher authority that Hamilton cracks if things go wrong. An untimely engine failure, an invisible contaminant or a drive-through could easily destabilise the Brit’s notoriously brittle control over his emotions Hamilton has demonstrated he can flip from an “I am the Greatest” Muhammad Ali-style self-confidence into a full-on self-destruct. His whining in Monaco last year is evidence of this, when Rosberg, at least in theory, may have been moderately Dick Dastardly-ish during qualifying.

To avoid slipping into the next phase, Rosberg ideally needs to win the next race at Bahrain. It was here were it all started to go wrong in 2014, when despite having fresher, softer tyres and DRS Nico just couldn’t pass a brutally defending Hamilton, who used every ounce of space and was on the ragged edge of a drive-through penalty.

It was in Bahrain where Rosberg started a long list of moves he backed out of to avoid a collision. When he finally didn’t (in Spa), but it was too little to late and he got punked by Lauda and Wolff.


If he ever reaches this phase it’s game over for Keke’s fair-haired boy. What the final crack in a driver’s confidence does was immortalized by none other than Felipe Massa. He never recovered from the humiliation of “Felipe, Fernando is faster than you.” at the 2010 German Grand Prix.


See: Eddie Irvine, David Coulthard, Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber.

34 responses to “Nico Rosberg’s Five Stages Of Grief

  1. Very interesting piece!

    I completely agree that it was at Spa that Nico was broken (by the public words and actions of the Mercedes management) – and he hasn’t recovered since.

  2. i dont think Mark ever accepted it, if anything he seemed to motivate him more, as the for others, Eddie knew he was a number 2 and happy with his lot, the others knew they were number 2; but refused to or couldn’t do anything about it. As Mark said the, the easy way not to be a number 2, just drive faster.

    • Eddie and Couldhardt accepted that they just weren’t fast enough to be no.1 or WDC. Eddie said that teams gravitate towards the faster driver, and had he been faster than Schumi, then he would have been no.1. Couldhardt said that he was fast on his day, but Mika was more consistent and that’s why he became a world champion. Barrichello and Massa on the other hand never accepted that they just didn’t have what it takes, which is why they are still complaining. In Massas case it’s understandable though, if you think about how he missed out on his championship in 2008 and had his serious accident when he was arguably in his prime. Irvine also said some interesting things about Barrichello, how he was supposed to be the next Senna, but never lived up to the hype, so maybe that’s where the bitterness comes from.

  3. We’ve seen this phenomenon so many times before. Loss of confidence – confidence being the No.1 factor required for success. They seldom manage to recover. The flipside of this coin is Hamilton. Since childhood he’s been told that he can walk on water and, not being the brightest or best educated chap around the paddock, has had no difficulty believing it. QED.

    • I don’t think it’s much to do with what he’s been told since he was a child – He’s got the talent and speed, which he full well knows, as is demonstrated in his performance on track and therefore he pretty much knows he is the best out there. Despite his praise of Alonso as the best driver, he knows he would beat him one on one and that first season of his in Formula 1 has cemented that belief. Not to mention, Alonso would never have him in the same team with equal opportunity.

      Nice to see you still are amongst those deluded people believing he’s not the “brightest” – Yet still manages to out-do Nico in the the on track performances in an era of Formula 1 where pundits said Nico would be best suited to. Lewis’ PR game has been pretty much spot on as well, as alluded to by the article and Nico’s seemingly ‘out of character’ behaviour to the media.

    • “Not being the brightest and best educated chap around the paddock”.,..

      Do you have any proof as to how well educated the rest of the drivers in the paddock are?

    • but this is a thinking mans formula where cerebral and mentally strong drivers triumph. Its not the old ‘drive as fast as you can till you crash or see the flag’ days of dumb talent.
      Surely Hamiltons blind confidence borne of a dumb reliance on talent will not survive a formula where he needs ‘capacity’ to understand the regs and the ERS and the radio ban, let alone controlling races from the cockpit
      I can uderstand he might be too dumb not to compute that he shouldnt be so condfident whereas the cerebral Nico is smart enough to understand that he shouldnt be confident.
      A bit like a poster not being smart enough to know when to post a joke that sounds less funny than ‘not thought through’

  4. “Rosberg, at least most of the time, is loyal to the team that he was part of since day one. It’s that loyalty which prevents him from employing the necessary ruthlessness to beat his team mate.”

    Oh, sure he is! 🙂

    Need I remind you of Monaco quali (which still stinks from a year afar) and Spa where he didn’t back out of an overtake that was doomed for quite some time. From what I gather, both those incidents essentially lost him the team’s support…

    • “His whining in Monaco last year is evidence of this, when Rosberg, at least in theory, may have been moderately Dick Dastardly-ish during qualifying.”

      Some would that blatant Schumacher-esque cheating…

    • He has been with the team the longest, but his teammate has a much longer affiliation with Mercedes than anyone else who has driven or worked for the team.

    • Yeah, Rosberg didn’t care about the team result in BEL. For Rosberg to do well, usually the team result had to suffer. His blocking in Q3 in MAL hurt himself, but also made it that much easier for Vettel to win.

  5. “What the final crack in a driver’s confidence does was immortalized by none other than Felipe Massa. He never recovered from the humiliation of “Felipe, Fernando is faster than you.” at the 2010 German Grand Prix.”

    For what it’s worth, Felipe baby is regaining some colors in the Williams against the young lad Bottas. He may not be toast yet. I have a theory that all Fred proved in Ferrari was that he was master at driving a dog of a truck, as proved by neither Massa nor Raikkonen being able to do anything about those cars… Give Felipe or Kimi a useful car, and they readily show that their speed is right there…

  6. HT ☺

    Short of Nico finding himself a truly exceptional pair of lucky rocketship underpants damn soon, the 2015 WDC-branded horse has bolted.

  7. Yes. Nico should not only win the next. He has to win the next two or three to get back his confidence. He is low on it right now. So atleast for the sake of the championship we need a ruthless Nico we saw from Monaco to Spa last year.

  8. I especially enjoyed the conclusion of this great article


    See: Eddie Irvine, David Coulthard, Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber.

    LOL… let’s wait and see when Rosberg finally discovers he belongs to the same list

    • I totally agree, we need to wait for the end of his career to judge him. He did very well against Schumacher and kept Lewis honest last year.

      Button could even be branded as a good no 2, but he proved his worth by standing well against Lewis in their 3 years together and now against Alonso.

      As for the no 2s mentioned, there’s a difference between Webber and the rest. Webber just couldn’t cut it because the team did not support him in 2010 and then the car was not tailored to his needs and driving style. The others though ‘obeyed’ the rules and the team and played second fiddle to their respective no 1. And just to complete the list, i’d also add Fisichella and Berger.

      • I don’t know if we need to wait. You’re only as good as your last race right? And in the last 12 races, in the best car, how many races has Nico won? One. While his teammate, has won 8. When you get beaten 8 wins to one, in the last dozen, you’ve become Mark Webber. I expect Lewis to gift Nico a win at the end of the season.

  9. I said it last year already, when Nico seemed to have a melt down. He comes from a very privileged background and was raised in the belief that if you work hard and do your best you get rewarded. With Lewis as a teammate he is confronted with a reality of life he hasn’t experienced before: Sometimes, working hard and doing your best just isn’t enough. And since he never experienced this, he doesn’t know how to handle it.

  10. As far as this race goes, Nico’s anger probably began bubbling at the starting line.
    Lewis lined up his car so it was pointed at Nico.
    “I’m commin’ at YOU bro!” #blessed….
    I am sure Nico was already having thoughts like..
    “What is he doing! he’s giving up the outside to Ferrari! He’s going to ruin my start! He’s putting the team in jeopardy!” And from that point it was over.

    • I too thought that hamilton’s angling of his car was a killer move. I’m not a fan of Hamilton, far from that, but he probably had nico’s panties already in a bunch before the green lights. That was probably worth 0.5s per lap before it even got started.

  11. Did anyone notice in the press conference, that Nico winked at Lewis before he started his almighty moan? It’s ever so subtle, but it’s blatantly there! Just look, right before he opends his yap

      • do you know whose idea that whole micro managing thing is? why are they doing it? sure, ferrari got closer, but with the advantage that they have it shouldn’t be necessary. and they already did it last year, where it absolutely wasn’t necessary.

        could it be that hamiltons contract negotiation is indeed taking so long because he wants something about strategies in there?

        • Mercedes got a shock in Malaysia and were paranoid about what Ferrari may be capable of…

          They only knew during the final stint, they were quicker than the Ferrari on the prime tyre. The FP2 analysis suggested it was a lot closer.

          The race day temperature increase also played on Mercedes mind, concerned Ferrari would be even better than FP2

    • Yes. They are both masters at keeping their names in the media lime light by spinning a competitive tale. If the world perceives Nico to have given up they both lose media interest.

  12. I still don’t understand why Nico needs to ventilate everything through the press. Can’t he just talk it over the team management and Lewis? He has a contract with Mercedes and did Lewis finally signed his? Nico is loyal to the team, but for how long will that loyalty last? He’s going to get angrier if Lewis does “what he wants no matter what they discussed in a meeting previous to the race”! I feel bad for Nico, but he needs to stop being a crybaby!!!

    • Nico was making a point to the team about their policies that neither he nor Lewis like…

      He could have said a lot more than he did and the team know this… This was a farcical situation all of Mercedes own making…

      Lewis was playing too… His interview with Sky about driving the car with just two fingers appeared to be a piss take… about having to drive so slowly…

  13. “… Nico just couldn’t pass a brutally defending Hamilton, who used every ounce of space and was on the ragged edge of a drive-through penalty.”

    Huh? Was there any suggestion at the time that RC or the stewards were looking into Lewis’ driving? I doubt it. Only one move was harsh, and that was when Lewis cut across Nico’s nose heading into turn 2. Everything else was well within the accepted rules of defensive driving. If we lose that, because a driver some don’t like puts on a masterclass in it (and they don’t like that), then we really will have lost something.

    As to the turbulent air hurting close-following, that’s a big concern. I thought the compounds were the same this year? Is it just the increased power pushing the tires over the edge? Even accounting for the extra two laps in China this year, the race time was still over by 2-3 mins.

    • Noses are higher this year, making it harder to seal the floor, ie keep the air flowing underneath the car cleanly. This results in a loss of Down Force which the teams are recapturing by increasing the aero on top of the car, which makes the dirty air even dirtier for the car behind. All of which are making the tyres go off quicker once you get close, inside about 2 seconds I’d say based on the gaps in race.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.