Slow start but Rosberg can time his run

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The Independent Online

Nico Rosberg did not exert himself much here yesterday, for a guy who many believe is going to be the next big thing. The 20-year-old German did only 11 laps all day, and then only went fast enough to set the 22nd-fastest time.

The flaxen-haired Rosberg is a very different character to his ebullient father, Keke, who fought his way to the world championship with Williams back in 1982 via a combination of talent, aggression and sheer chutzpah. Rosberg Jnr is much less of a hustler, and is unlikely to be seen discreetly cupping a trademark cigarette behind his back.

In 1985 his father scaled the Everest of the first 160mph lap of Silverstone not because he needed to - he was already on pole position - but because he could, deflating rear tyre notwithstanding. Yesterday the son stayed in the garage all morning, and did little in the afternoon. But his reasons were as profoundly practical as anything his father might have done on his way to the top. Friday is traditionally the day on which those teams who run them let their test drivers do all the work as the race drivers preserve their equipment.

In many respects, Rosberg is his father's son. He shares his speed, albeit in a more refined, flowing manner. To watch Nico on a fast lap is to witness smoothness and control verging on the boring; watching Keke chasing a quick time used to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Rosberg Jnr could not possibly be as hungry as his old man was, but last year he won the inaugural GP2 series that supports Formula One. He says he remembers nothing of his father's career at the top level. "He retired at the end of 1986 when I was 18 months old - but in the mid-1990s he was racing in the DTM touring car series and I often went to races. It was just fantastic."

Rosberg Snr had an unhappy final year of Formula One with McLaren, but the rumours suggest Nico might yet end up there. With Kimi Raikkonen bound for Ferrari in 2007 and Juan Pablo Montoya at a low ebb Ron Dennis might see more value in signing a season-experienced Rosberg as a partner for incoming Fernando Alonso rather than take a chance on the young Britons Lewis Hamilton or Gary Paffett. But Rosberg says he is happy where he is. "Williams supported me a lot, they helped me reach Formula One, and it's all going well so far," he said.

Britain's Anthony Davidson set the pace yesterday for Honda, but with Alex Wurz, Robert Kubica, Jenson Button, Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Raikkonen all separated by less than a second, the auguries are good for qualifying. Doubtless Rosberg Jnr will be right in there, too.

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