Ross Brawn has revealed that he counts Mercedes AMG Petronas' 'other' German as one of the leading lights in the F1 paddock, especially based on his qualifying ability.
While Michael Schumacher continues to gain most of the headlines, Brawn believes that team-mate Nico Rosberg is poised for a breakthrough into the pantheon of F1 winners if he - and the team - can continue to move forward in 2012. Speaking shortly after the launch of the W03 in Barcelona last week, the Briton pointed to Rosberg's ability to get the most out of his car during Saturday's timed sessions as reason to include him in the group ready for success, having watched him out-qualify Schumacher 16-3 last season.
“In qualifying, he really can get the most out of the car - Nico comes closer to its limits,” Brawn told Germany's Sport Bild
website, “I think we've often seen him in a better qualifying position than where I would expect the car to be. Nico might think this is normal, but it's not. For me, he is definitely among the best drivers in F1.”
With Rosberg and Schumacher in tandem, and the might of Stuttgart behind it, Mercedes AMG Petronas needs to build on two solid - if unspectacular - seasons in the top flight, but Brawn is confident that the W03 can be the car to deliver the step forward.
"I don't mind them chomping at the bit to get on the podium because that is what they should be doing," he told the official F1 website, "I think we share our thoughts, we share our ideas and we help them understand the plans that we are putting in place. They are part of the team and should know what is going on. We haven't got a strong enough car yet, but I think they understand how difficult a challenge it is - and they are part of that challenge. They take consolation in the way the team is, as they see that we are structuring for the future.
"I think all of us wish we had progressed more and that is why we have chosen to strengthen the team [for 2012]. We have a lot of bright people in the company - and even finishing fourth last year was not such an easy task. But yes, we want to step up to be one of the really top teams and, with Bob Bell joining last year and very recently Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis, it means there are real assets in the team. I am comfortable that we are definitely moving forward [although] you never know in this business who is doing a great job and who is not.
"That is the fascination. You turn up at the first race and don't know who will be in front of you and who will be behind. What I do know is that we have a much stronger organisation so, wherever we find ourselves after that first race, we will be able to react and move forward."