Nico Rosberg's relationship with Williams in Formula 1 may not be quite as rock-solid as it perhaps appears from the outside, with the team concerned about the young German's 'inconsistent' performances and the driver admitting to 'looking at' his options beyond the end of the current campaign.
Williams has notched up a scant 4.5 points thus far in 2009, failing to make the most of its FW31 in the early stages despite – in company with championship leaders Brawn GP and Toyota – stealing a march on the opposition in introducing a 'double-decker' split-level diffuser right from the start. Now, however, rivals are catching up fast, driving the former multiple world champions down the pecking order and breeding discontent at Grove.
Rosberg remained loyal to Williams when McLaren-Mercedes made an offer of 'majestic proportions' in a bid to procure his services to race alongside friend and former karting sparring partner Lewis Hamilton at the end of 2007 in place of Fernando Alonso, instead signing a two-year extension to his agreement with Sir Frank's boys, with whom he made his debut in the top flight back in 2006.
However, the 23-year-old made it clear right from the outset of the current campaign that should Williams not
take a significant step forward in 2009, then he would likely not be willing to hang around any longer, as his once-bright future looks in danger of stalling and he fears becoming F1's forgotten man.
Hopes were high that in an age of dramatic upheaval in the technical and aerodynamic regulations, as one of the sport's oldest and most experienced innovators Williams would be able to benefit, but that has yet to happen. Its Toyota-powered challenger is certainly quick over a single lap – Rosberg has topped the practice sessions eight times out of 15 over the course of the opening five grands prix of the season – but has still to deliver in terms of results when the chequered flag comes down, with sixth place in the Melbourne curtain-raiser the best result to-date.
Off the back of that, the inaugural GP2 Series Champion has revealed that he is 'looking at' his possibilities for a move up the grid in 2010 – with Williams presently just eighth in the constructors' title standings, ahead of only fellow privateer squads Scuderia Toro Rosso and Force India.
The team contended that Rosberg could – and indeed perhaps should – have finished as high as fifth in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona last weekend, when erratic lap times instead consigned him to just eighth place at the close. The three extra points would have vaulted Williams past both Ferrari and BMW-Sauber into sixth spot in the championship chase. The frustration, it would appear, is on both sides.
“Nico's pace was initially good,” reflected esteemed co-founder and engineering director Patrick Head, “but we then struggled to maintain consistency so we'll have to investigate that.”
“Nico's lap times were somewhat inconsistent,” concurred technical director Sam Michael, “and we are now looking carefully through all of the data and bodywork parts to determine what caused that. Even if we think we have a faster car than how we currently stand in that table, the constructors' order is what the overall performance of our team is measured by.”