Nico Rosberg admitted that he was over-the-moon to take fourth place in his home grand prix at the Nürburgring in Germany, having not been 'expecting too much' from his 15th grid position and having had to battle against technical issues along the way that meant he carried more fuel than necessary for most of the distance.
The young German was out of luck in qualifying, becoming one of the high-profile Q2 victims – the first time during the 2009 campaign to-date that he has failed to make it into the top ten shoot-out – but a bold opening lap would pay off handsomely, as it immediately vaulted him up into ninth place, and on a heavy fuel load to-boot.
Benefitting from Heikki Kovalainen holding up a whole gaggle of cars in his third-placed McLaren-Mercedes, Rosberg was able to keep firmly in touch with not only the Finn, but also Brawn GP world championship leader Jenson Button, the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull Racing – and he would jump all bar two of them before the chequered flag.
Strong pace throughout enabled the Williams star to run as high as second during the pit-stops, and once the final round of refuelling was completed, he found himself a net fourth – where he would remain all the way to the close to register his and the team's best finish of the season so far.
“It was a fantastic result for us today,” enthused the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg. “As I started 15th, I honestly wasn't expecting too much, but I took a few chances on the opening lap and finished it in ninth place! Although I had more fuel than anyone else, I kept pushing hard and that – together with a little luck that Heikki Kovalanien created a bit of traffic jam behind him – helped for sure.
“I was also carrying a problem with the fuel system, so it was quite eventful and makes the race outcome even better. We are continually progressing with our car, our development is looking good and because of this our pace is right up there. I am looking forward to Hungary now, because I think it will be another race where we can have a good result.”
There was less joy, by contrast, for team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, who having out-qualified the driver of the sister FW31 for the second race in succession in 13th, was unable to make that advantage count – despite setting the fifth-fastest lap time of the grand prix, again quicker than Rosberg's best effort.
A touch with Toyota rival Jarno Trulli into a fraught turn one for the first time badly compromised the Japanese ace's efforts, and there would be further wayward moments later on too as he endeavoured to grab the final marker for eighth in the closing stages, almost clattering into the side of the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella into the last corner before ultimately being forced to settle for a frustrating twelfth and nul points
“My race was really defined by my first lap,” the 24-year-old acknowledged. “I was hit by Jarno and almost went off, but in the process I dropped right to the back of the field. It was a shame, because my race was ruined from there. However, I think our pace was good today, certainly a pace that would have got us close to the points. Our strategy would have worked well too, but all of this is unimportant now.”