ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Jackie Stewart, Britain’s first and until this season only triple Formula One world champion, would like to see Germany’s Nico Rosberg take the title off Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in 2016.
Rosberg faces a crucial year after finishing runner-up to Hamilton, who can become Britain’s first ever four times champion, for the past two campaigns.
The German must either rise to the challenge and follow in the footsteps of father Keke, Finland’s 1982 world champion, or be written off as a number two.
“It would be good if he won the title. That would be very good,” Stewart, 76, told Reuters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix won by Rosberg.
“There is nothing to stop Rosberg winning. He is quick. We have seen him have so many pole positions. He is smoother (than Hamilton),” he added.
“Lewis is quite aggressive so therefore he has won more races because of that aggression, but sometimes that can bite you also.”
Hamilton won 10 of this year’s 19 races to Rosberg’s six but the German came good at the end with a run of three in a row and six successive pole positions.
The challenge for Rosberg, who made his debut with Williams in 2006 and now has 14 career wins, is to show that he can also win when it matters most and not just when nothing is at stake.
“He is good, and there is no question about it. The trouble is you have to be very good and he has got to just step up that little bit extra,” said Stewart.
The Scot’s desire to see Rosberg succeed has nothing to do with any personal animosity towards Hamilton but more for Formula One to provide more excitement and to put on more of a show when one team is so utterly dominant.
If Mercedes are again racing on a different level next season, it will be more important than ever for Rosberg to take the fight to his team mate.
The closing races of 2015 offered hope for the future but just how much of a pointer they really are remains to be seen.
“There’s been so much discussion about has he stepped up his game or has the car come towards him development-wise?” said Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff. “Or has Lewis unconsciously just taken it more easily?
“I don’t know...I think we have to find out.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer