LONDON (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg was born in Germany, brought up in Monaco and Ibiza, educated at an international school in the south of France and has a famous Finnish father.
If the Mercedes driver were to win the Formula One title in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the first German to do so in a German car would be the least German champion of them all if no less deserving.
Sophisticated and multi-lingual, as much at ease conversing in Italian, French or Spanish as English, the 29-year-old describes himself as ‘international German’.
What the blond son of 1982 champion Keke has in common with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, whose German roots go far deeper, is that attention to detail and constant quest for improvement.
Rosberg noticed, for example, that he sometimes fell sick at race weekends after long-haul commercial flights. So now he wears a face mask when flying to ward off viruses and has changed to a gluten-free diet.
The German has needed all his intelligence and every advantage to match British team mate Lewis Hamilton, the former friend and foe from karting days who is now a Monaco neighbor.
A team player, Rosberg has also shown this season that he has a ruthlessness that belies his easy charm and privileged upbringing.
To be champion he needs to overhaul Hamilton’s 17 point advantage, an achievable target thanks to the unprecedented double points on offer.
Both have pushed each other all the way, with Rosberg taking 10 pole positions but Hamilton racking up 10 wins to the German’s five in a record-breaking run of 11 one-twos.
“Nico is good on marketing and very friendly. Always on time. That pushes Lewis also to be very good with the sponsors and team guys,” said one close acquaintance.
“Everything is competition. Every single thing. Also on the track. When Lewis has pure speed, Nico always needs to find a smart way.
“His approach is sitting down with the guys and saying ‘How can we improve?’ That’s Nico Rosberg. The engineering driver.”
Consistent on the racetrack, with 10 second places this season, continuity is important off it for a man whose parents have been married for 37 years.
He had been with girlfriend Vivian for a decade before they tied the knot this year, and race engineer Tony Ross has accompanied him from a debut season at Williams in 2006 through to Mercedes.
Where Hamilton likes to have father Anthony and family around, and loves fast cars and chunky jewelry, Rosberg is a polar opposite to the kid who grew up on a rough Stevenage council estate.
Keke still goes to pre-season testing, enjoying the occasional day on the golf course with friends, but rarely attends races. His son needs no help and no distractions.
Nico, who turned down the offer of a university place to study engineering, loves old cars and has been known to turn up hours early for photoshoots in the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart to admire the exhibits.
He recently purchased a 1970s 280SL Mercedes convertible.
“He likes new cars but driving in a classic car with Vivian and enjoying the scenery gives him much more pleasure than driving a modern car very fast,” confided one who knows. Racetrack excluded, of course.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris
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