Nico Rosberg insists that he is not about to go quietly into the F1 night despite the F1 world championships having already been sewn up by his Mercedes team and team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The German proved as much as F1 returned to Mexico after an absence of 23 years, winning from the front at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to give Mercedes another 1-2 finish – its tenth in 17 attempts this season – and maintains that he intends to add another two victories before the year is out.
“Why do you use the phrase 're-igniting'?” he asked of a journalist who dared to suggest the fire inside might have gone out, “It's always been there – half of me is Finn and there is the Finnish sisu
, fighting spirit…
“What is important to me is to win the [remaining] races. I enjoyed winning in Mexico and I want to do the same in the last two. Then, the way the points are, I am second in the championship rather than third. It can only be a good thing to be starting next year having finished this year [on a positive note], but that is not yet important, winning the races is.”
Rosberg heads into the final two-race stretch, taking in Brazil this weekend and Abu Dhabi in a fortnight, with a 21-point advantage over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, having taken full advantage of a rare off-day for the German in Mexico. Ferrari, however, remains strong, and Rosberg is all too aware of Mercedes' unexpected frailty this season.
“We broke down too often this year, so we can improve reliability for sure,” he pointed out, before admitting that he has been on a constant quest to improve his own performance throughout 2015.
“It's a constant evolution: always trying to question if it's the right way, what can be done better, what can I do better,” he explained, “I think you have to do that as a race driver to try and keep on improving.
“Things change, the cars change, so it's not always exactly the same, but you adapt and find your way again. That's why there are so many variations. The rear tyres changed quite a lot from last year and all these things just play into it. Everything moves forward and that is why situations can change slightly. You are always compromising between qualifying and the race and you need to get that compromise right.
“In the race between Lewis and I, everything comes into it: qualifying, going into turn one first… We're basing races on all these pieces of the puzzle and, if I put them all together, I will win the race.”
Explaining that there was no 'precise explanation' for the upturn in qualifying form that has seen him capture pole position at each of the past three races, Rosberg is already on record as saying he is out for another victory this weekend, something that would deny team-mate Hamilton a first victory in the homeland of his hero, Ayrton Senna.
The relationship between the two has turned frostier of late, ironically since Hamilton clinched a third world title in Austin. There, Rosberg appeared petulant as he, first, threw a cap back across the 'green room' at the Briton and, later, refused to join in the champagne spraying on the podium. Accusing Hamilton of being too aggressive at the first corner of the USGP – just as the Briton appeared to have been in Japan before the title was done and dusted – Rosberg is taking extra delight on having the upper hand on Saturday afternoon, but trying not to dwell too much on the on-track rivalry.
“Of course I am pleased with the way qualifying has gone lately,” he conceded, having seen his 2014 pole position trophy go to Hamilton as early as the Belgian Grand Prix, “I don't have a precise explanation for it, it's just a work in progress. I've been working on it because it was a weakness and it has improved which I am happy about. Now I'm just motivated and optimistic about the weekend - for myself.”