Nico Rosberg professed himself satisfied with sixth position at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix, equalling both his qualifying performance and also his best finish of the current Formula 1 campaign to-date – as he pulled off arguably the two finest and most audacious overtaking manoeuvres of the race.
Though he has never started lower than eighth in the glamorous Principality – his 'home' grand prix – prior to his fourth appearance this weekend, Rosberg had yet to register any points there, invariably finding himself out of luck on Sunday afternoon.
A strong start to the 2009 edition, though, saw the 23-year-old almost get fellow third row starter Felipe Massa up the hill on the opening lap, before finally battling his way aggressively and courageously by the Ferrari when the Brazilian had to back off briefly to allow Sebastian Vettel to re-pass him after running off-track at the seafront chicane, enabling the Red Bull ace's fellow German to opportunistically force his way past in the process.
After finding a way by the ailing Vettel too not long afterwards, Rosberg immediately proved to be the fastest man on the circuit as the leading Brawn GP duo of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello similarly found themselves in tyre trouble, but once all drivers were on the same rubber during the middle stint, the inaugural GP2 Series Champion slipped backwards, ceding ground to the second RBR of Mark Webber before falling away to an eventual sixth spot at the chequered flag.
“I've got to be happy with sixth place today,” he reflected. “More just wasn't possible, and we did the best we could have in the circumstances. It was a great start with lots going on, but I managed to come through and it set me up well for the early phase of the race.
“We then did a long middle stint on 'primes' as we were worried about the durability of the 'option' tyre, but they seemed to hold on much better than expected in the last stint, perhaps due to the amount of rubber down on the circuit by the end of the race. That said, I always enjoy racing here; it is a huge challenge that requires you to be inch-perfect, and it was very demanding out there.”
If Rosberg excelled around Monte Carlo's narrow, tortuous streets, then team-mate Kazuki Nakajima – who had achieved his first top ten qualifying position of the season the previous day – blotted his copybook to some extent after driving solidly on a long first stint before sliding into the barriers barely two laps from the close, in so doing denying Williams a double top ten finish.
“The start and the initial part of the race were good for me,” recounted the Japanese ace, “but ultimately it was frustrating as I always seemed to be picking up traffic out of the pit-lane or responding to blue flags and then losing track position to the one-stoppers. In the final analysis the outcome was disappointing; I was on the 'option' tyre and I was pushing perhaps too hard when I had my accident nearly at the finish, but at least I had a good feeling with the car today.”
“It was good to collect some points,” summarised the Grove-based outfit's technical director Sam Michael of an event in which the former world champions have on three previous occasions triumphed. “Nico drove well, [but] unfortunately we were on a compromise strategy as a result of yesterday's qualifying, so it was always going to be quite difficult for him to beat the guys around him and he did well to earn some points. It was difficult to progress Kazuki somewhere like Monaco where you can't overtake. The car was good in terms of pace around here, and if we keep pushing the development, the performance will start to show through.”