Rosberg-Hamilton Duel Has the Intensity of Senna-Prost Rivalry, Not the Acrimony: Karun Chandhok

Arnab Sen | News18.com @arnabsentweet

First published: November 28, 2016, 3:52 PM IST | Updated: 6 days ago
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Rosberg-Hamilton Duel Has the Intensity of Senna-Prost Rivalry, Not the Acrimony: Karun Chandhok
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton shake hands on the podium at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (Getty Images)

New Delhi: After ten long years of making his Formula 1 debut (in 2006), Nico Rosberg has finally achieved the dream of emulating his father Keke by winning the 2016 Formula One Drivers' Championship. The German's win means Keke and Nico are now only the second father-son duo in the history of the sport, after Graham Hill and Damon Hill, to have won the ultimate prize.

India's very own Karun Chandhok, who became the second Indian to drive in the Formula One, has travelled to all the venues this season as an expert. Karun thus had the perfect ringside view of how the entire season panned out and shared some very interesting facts during an exclusive interview with News18 over phone from Abu Dhabi.

"It is a fantastic achievement for Nico. It is something that he dreamt of as a child and has been 25 years in the making, from go-karting to becoming Formula 1 champion. I think it is a great story for the sport. The son of a world champion, winning the championship, second ever in the history of the sport, incredible," Chandhok said while lauding Rosberg for his achievement.

Two-time defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who was gunning for his fourth title, won the race at Abu Dhabi, but with Rosberg holding on to the second place, despite immense pressure from Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo and the two Ferrari's of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, it meant that the German would finally deny his teammate and win his maiden title.

The victory at Abu Dhabi was Hamilton's tenth race win of the season, which was one more than Rosberg's nine, and according to Karun Chandhok, it was Rosberg's consistency which landed him the title.

"The world championship isn't won in one day, it was won over 21 races and ultimately you have to accept that Nico drove some great races throughout the season this year and he deserves the world title," the former Hispania Racing driver said.

He further highlighted the fact that reliability issues put paid to Hamilton's chances of making it a hat-trick of titles this season.

"Lewis was unlucky with reliability issues and unfortunately that is part of the sport and it hurt his world championship chances. These issues have always been part of Formula 1, you look at 2008 when Lewis won his first world championship, in that year Felipe Massa had a lot of reliability issues which allowed Lewis to win the title. On that occasion Lewis benefited and this time it worked against him, it happens in sports."

On being asked whether the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry came close to the Senna-Prost duel, Karun's answer was a categorical 'no'.

"I don't think this is the most intense intra-team rivalry in the sport since Senna and Prost. You look at the rivalry between Vettel and Webber in their Red Bull Racing heydays and that was quite acrimonious, this is very intense, but not even a patch on the Senna-Prost or Piquet-Mansell battles. That was genuine hatred between the teammates. I think Hamilton and Rosberg share a professional rivalry and there is nothing personal involved," Chandhok opined.

"The battle has been really intense between them throughout the season. I was on the grid yesterday and was standing right next to the cars before the start of the race, I could feel the intensity. It was a tense atmosphere on the starting line. The race itself was very tactical with Hamilton trying to hold Nico up and the Red-Bull and the Ferraris coming into the battle. So the whole thing was very intense. Eventually Nico held on and great for him while Lewis was extremely disappointed and his face said it all."

Talking about the rule changes in Formula 1 in 2017, Chandhok said that the new norms will usher in a new era in the sport and Mercedes F1 team could well be removed from its perch.

"The rule changes in 2017 will ensure it is the beginning of a whole new era in the sport. This race here in Abu Dhabi is the end of the old era. Next year the rules are completely different, the cars will look different, the aerodynamic rules have changed and that I expect will allow for changes on the grid."

"Historically whenever we have seen a rules change, the grid order has been mixed up. In 2009, when the last big aerodynamic rule change took place, we saw Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing come up while Ferrari and McLaren went down. In 2014 the engine rule change came along and Mercedes were catapulted to becoming the dominant force in the sport."

Karun Chandhok also mentioned that other teams are relishing the fact that the rule change could allow them to end Mercedes' dominance.

"I spent a bit of time with Daniel Ricciardo and Christian Horner of Red Bull Racing and I can tell you they are very excited about the next season."

Talking about the possible return of Formula 1 to India, Chandhok said that the ball was in the government's court and that they need to back the sport for it to make a return to India. The Indian Grand Prix, which took place at Greater Noida's Buddh International Circuit, was removed from the Formula 1 calendar after just 3 seasons as it ran into tax problems.

"Unfortunately I don't see Formula 1 returning to India soon unless the government decides to back the event and get the required funds. I have gone to all the venues this year and wherever these races happen you can see the governments backing the event and using it as a tourism property. Unfortunately that's not the case in India and sadly I don't the race coming back," he said.

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