He may have drawn plaudits from observers for one of the performances of the day and kept his unbroken seven-race scoring run intact in the European Grand Prix in Valencia today, but still Williams star Nico Rosberg wasn't entirely satisfied, ruing another possible podium opportunity gone begging.
In each of the last five grands prix, Rosberg has finished either fourth or fifth, but he remains in search of his first rostrum finish of 2009 and third of his F1 career. After qualifying seventh around the demanding Valencia Street Circuit on a heavy fuel load, the young German thought he was in with a decent chance – and a promising start to gain a place to sixth seemed to increase that hope.
However, whilst undeniably pushing hard throughout, the 24-year-old was unable to get close enough to Kimi Raikkonen ahead of him to mount a challenge, and after the 2007 world champion made a break mid-race and passed compatriot Heikki Kovalainen in the second round of pit-stops, Rosberg was left chasing a different Finn.
Doggedly and inexorably hunting the McLaren-Mercedes down, the Wiesbaden-born ace – who defeated Kovalainen for the inaugural GP2 Series crown back in 2005 – had reduced the gap to less than a second at the chequered flag, but four points for fifth place nevertheless enabled Rosberg to move ahead of Jarno Trulli into the same spot in the drivers' title chase and 'best-of-the-rest' behind the unmatchable Brawn GP/Red Bull Racing quartet with six rounds remaining.
“I did enjoy the race,” reported the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg, “but the heat really took most of the fun out of it. It wasn't nice, but it was still a good result for the team. Fifth again, after starting seventh, is not bad, and gives us more points.
“I was hoping to beat Raikkonen today, but he was too fast. Our car seems to suit every track we go to, and the team is doing well to keep development going from race-to-race. It's nice that we are always up there and I hope we continue like this – and possibly make a step forward onto the podium soon.”
Team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, by stark contrast, remains in search of his first points of his sophomore campaign in the top flight. Though the young Japanese ace made a good start to immediately gain three places from 17th on the grid, he later suffered a puncture that destroyed his race and prompted an unscheduled pit-stop on lap 38, dropping him to the very back of the field. With two laps to go, the team took the decision to retire the 24-year-old in a bid to limit any potential damage to his gearbox as a result of the puncture.
“It was another disappointing afternoon for me,” confessed Nakajima, who lapped about half a second off Rosberg's pace throughout. “It was all over in qualifying really. I was in 13th when I had the puncture and that really finished my race. Just a few laps before the end, I then had some kind of problem so I had to stop early.”
“Kazuki was compromised by his problems in qualifying,” concurred the former multiple world championship-winning, Grove-based outfit's chief operations engineer Rod Nelson, “so we decided to go for a long first stint which was looking reasonable until his puncture. We then had to retire his car early, as it had some damage from the puncture which could have harmed the gearbox.
“Nico drove a strong race. We were hoping to get close to Raikkonen but the second stint wasn't strong enough which, in-turn, brought [Fernando] Alonso into play. We managed the gap to Alonso to keep fifth place, which we are happy with.”