Nico Rosberg’s ‘one race at a time’ approach to this year’s Formula 1 world championship may not have been to everyone’s taste, but on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, as he clinched his maiden title, its effect was clear to see.
Rosberg had spent the last two years in the shadow of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, but 2016 saw a different side to the German: calculated, calm, cool. The elation or heartache of one race weekend would not be carried over to the next.
The most iconic sportsmen tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve. Hamilton has done that throughout his career. Rosberg, though, knew he had to keep his emotions in check all season long if he wanted to finally become world champion.
Yet when the crown was clinched as he crossed the line second in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg finally let his emotions go. Fighting back the tears, he told the Mercedes team over his radio: “Thank you guys. You have made a childhood dream come true. Thank you so much.”
The end of the race had been dramatic, with Hamilton defying team orders by backing Rosberg towards the oncoming Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, knowing it to be the only way he could win the title. The tactic failed to pay off, even if it did shake Rosberg up.
“Hell no, that was definitely not the most enjoyable race I’ve ever had!” Rosberg said on the podium. “With Max in the beginning and with those guys coming up the end, really not really enjoyable, those last laps.
“I’m glad it’s over. Unbelievably ecstatic.”
And then the icy defence Rosberg had put up all year came down, his voice catching as he spoke.
“I want to [dedicate] the win to my wife. Thank you so much for all the support, and to our daughter,” Rosberg said, smirking as he held back the tears.
“I will thank everyone else afterwards. Unreal.”
The title was all the more significant for Rosberg, for it made him the latest second generation champion as he followed the footsteps of his father, Keke, who won the title back in 1982.
“Very very proud of course to have done the same feat as my dad achieved,” Rosberg said.
“He’s gonna be coming in like half an hour I think. Be exciting to see him.”
As the cameras turned to Sebastian Vettel for his podium interview, Rosberg took a moment to wipe the moisture from his eyes. His face told you everything about how much the championship meant to him.
The other notable moment on the podium came when Rosberg and Hamilton shook hands – twice – and embraced, putting their rivalry to one side at the end of a fiercely-fought season.
During their four seasons together as teammates, there have been a number of moments where the Rosberg-Hamilton relationship looked damaged beyond repair. Even on Sunday, when Hamilton played – in the words of Sebastian Vettel – “dirty tricks”, it was clear the needle was still there.
But underlying all of their battles, their spats, their clashes, there is still a deep-rooted respect for one another.
“I just want to say congrats to Lewis,” Rosberg said when the cameras turned back to him.
“You did a great season, great competitor, massively quick. Always tough to beat you.”
Rosberg then moved to the edge of the podium balcony to address the Mercedes team that has been with him for all 23 of his grand prix victories, and now a world championship.
“Guys, as a team Mercedes, please put the music on. I’m coming down in one second,” Rosberg said, before making one final tribute to his family.
“My Mum, really looking forward to seeing her. The whole family together, it’s going to be wonderful.”
Previously, Rosberg was defined as being ice cool; emotionless; perhaps as not showing enough heart.
But on Sunday, the family man became F1 world champion. And that definition cannot be contested.