Nico Rosberg says he feared the Mercedes team would turn against him after he learned Michael Schumacher would be his team-mate.
Rosberg was the first driver Mercedes announced ahead of the team’s 2010 return to Formula 1. Who would be his team-mate was unknown at the time, but there was speculation that it could be Jenson Button, who won the title with the team a year earlier, while it was called Brawn GP, or fellow German Nick Heidfeld.
However, it turned out Rosberg’s partner would be seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher who would be making his return to the sport after a three-year absence. This did not sit well with Rosberg.
“That was not a good moment,” said the German in a talk with David Coulthard.
“I was all excited that I could be leading this Mercedes team, and the name Schumacher was not even on the horizon. Nobody was even talking about that.
“And then suddenly [team principal] Ross [Brawn] calls me and he says that my team-mate was not going to be Jenson Button or Nick Heidfeld. It’s going to be Michael Schumacher.
“I was like ‘Oh my God!’ The craziest thoughts that I would have no chance, that the whole team would go against me, that Michael would manipulate his way through.
“And also, like, I don’t even know. Can I keep up with him? He’s the greatest of all time, do I have a chance? That was a pretty crazy moment.”
Rosberg went on to explain how everyone at the team looked up at Michael.
“When Michael came along he was like God in the team.
“When we had some strategy meetings, even my strategy was only being discussed with Michael and not with me, even though I was sitting there.
“I then addressed that to the strategist that was holding those meetings, we reflected on that together, and it really had a big impact.
“From then on strategy meetings were much better for me, I felt much more comfortable, and I did get that attention from him [Schumacher] just by showing him my ability in the end, and expressing my feelings.”
The German also claims Michael was a master at mind-games.
“Michael is a psychological warrior. It was incredible learning for me over those three years, and he doesn’t even have to make an effort.
“It comes naturally to him, to psychologically get into the heads of his competition, and I was his team-mate, so I was his greatest competition, and it would be from the morning to the evening.
“There are so many examples. The Monaco bathroom was one example, five minutes before qualifying, and only one bathroom in the garage, and he knows I’m standing outside because I’m knocking like crazy, telling whoever is in there to please get out. I’m panicking. I need to pee before qualifying.
“Michael is in there looking at his watch, just chilling because he knows he is going to create more and more stress in my mind, and then with one minute to go he walks out, all chilled out, and he’s like ‘Oh sorry! I didn’t know you were there.’
“So by this time I was in full panic mode, and it just went on and on,” concluded Rosberg.