Nico Rosberg snared the first GP2 Series drivers' championship with the win in the first race at Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday, September 29, 2005. A remarkable accomplishment for the young Finnish-German racer, especially considering the top-notch competition in the new openwheel series.
Rosberg won the race from pole position followed by his teammate for ART Grand Prix, Alex Premat, and his rival in the championship, Heikki Kovalainen.
The son of former F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg drove the race as truly number one, showing he came to Shakir to take the title and no one was able to stop him.
The words of Rosberg confirmed his feelings about his performance in Bahrain, the first time that the series raced outside of the European Continent. "It was pretty easy. The start was fairly difficult, and then to get the rhythm going and everything isn't too easy, but we got the car spot on again -- we've done a fantastic job with the car this weekend, because it was very difficult to get a good balance", he said.
Rosberg dominated the race with a car that worked perfectly to achieve another victory this season.
After scoring the pole this morning prior to the first of two races at the season finale, Rosberg only needed to be in front of his main rival Kovalainen by four points to seal up the title.
And his teammate Premat gave him an important hand in closing out the title before tomorrow's final race of the season by taking second and leaving Kovalainen behind in third.
"It was a great season, and we were quick probably from the second race onwards in Barcelona I had the fastest lap by a country mile and we just progressively got faster and faster. To have had a difficult start and then come out on top at the end is just amazing", stated Rosberg after the podium celebration.
The Finish-German driver knows what's next in his career and has no problem to say it. "Formula One is the next step, and I can't believe I'm actually talking about it like that! That seems the next step, and for sure I'll have a good chance for next year -- at least a test driver, and maybe even a race drive.
"I'm still talking to Williams and BMW, but I think probably at Williams as a test driver for sure," continued Rosberg. "And maybe even a race drive is a small possibility -- it hasn't been spoken about really, but who knows".
He surely does -- Rosberg was a candidate to fill the Williams seat in the final two races this season, however, Antonio Pizzonia was confirmed a couple of days ago. The chances still open for 2006, Rosberg has already won the right with the championship in GP2 in what has been a fantastic season for him.
From Rosberg's happiness to Kovalainen's disappointment. The Finn did all he could to continue in the fight for the title, but as he explains, this was not his day.
"I did everything that I could. I was on the limit everywhere and really trying to push, but I couldn't match their pace. We took a gamble with the strategy to try and get past through the pits but I wasn't able to lap quick enough, and that was it really", was the Finn's summary of the race.
Kovalainen started on the front row with Rosberg but decided to go to pits just after the Safety Car just as the field had a re-start. This was a strategy that had paid-off good numbers to Arden International this year, but today in Shakir it wasn't enough.
"I was a little bit surprised because we were not planning to do that, because the safety car was in, but we took a gamble and if I had been able to lap quick enough it might have worked," admitted Kovalainen about the decision. "I think at the end it didn't change the result too much, whether we stopped very early or very late -- we still would have finished third because the gap behind was massive. They were just stronger than us today".
Kovalainen was in second place when Premat passed him on lap 16, showing his superior pace in turn one. "It was impossible to follow -- when he was behind me I tried to hold him up for a little while," said Kovalainen. "To try to make him outbrake himself, and I tried to defend, but he was just all over me".
It sounds almost like resignation. And it is because with second place he still had a chance tomorrow to try to beat Rosberg, but Premat did his job, in a very good way.
The Arden driver reflected on his season that had him as the strong points leader until last round in Spa-Francorchamps. "It's very disappointing of course -- I was looking for the win, so second place doesn't mean a lot to me, but I've learnt a lot and it's been a competitive championship. I've got five victories, and they've all been very good moments, so I know how to win races and fight with the car and be on the edge all the time, so from that point of view there are some positive things as well, although at the moment I don't feel great about them," said Kovalainen.
Today's race set the end of a thrilling championship battle between two superb drivers who fought in a great way for the crown. For both, Rosberg and Kovalainen, the future looks bright in F1, for sure. Only time will say when.