Mercedes F1 racer Nico Rosberg on pizza shame, pre-race rituals and having Muhammad Ali over for tea
What’s your driving like in everyday life?
I take it easy – I have the race track to go crazy. I really like driving classic cars, and I have a 1970 [Mercedes] Pagoda at home. But driving a classic car fast is still within the speed limit – it just feels fast.
You’re German-born – what about on the autobahn?
I don’t spend much time in Germany, as I live in Monaco, but of course on the autobahn I’ll push it. I know for all car fans, one of their dreams is to go to Germany and go really fast on the autobahn.
What’s the best thing about living in Monaco?
[Nico’s agent] No tax! [Laughs] That’s not… well, that is the best thing, I suppose. But, equally as good is, erm… it’s just such a wonderful place to live. You’re right at the sea, the climate is great and the quality of life is amazing.
What music are you into?
I listen to whatever the current things are. For example, I went to a Coldplay concert last year at the Royal Albert Hall, which was amazing. Then I went to AC/DC. So it depends.
Any non-motoring hobbies we should know about?
I’m into fashion, whether clothes, jewellery or watches. Sports – I like cycling. And backgammon. I’ve played Bernie [Ecclestone]. He’s never beaten me, but we’ve only played two games.
Do you have a pre-race ritual?
I play soccer. Keepie-uppies with my physio. That gets me warmed up and ready to go.
Once in a while, whenever I’m wearing a charm bracelet, such as karma beads from Thomas Sabo, if I happen to be on pole when I’m wearing that, it becomes my lucky charm... until I don’t win.
What’s the F1 Christmas party like?
At our Christmas party there are 3,000 people. We have 1,300 employees and everybody brings family and friends. There’s music, live acts, shows. It’s incredible to see the amount of people involved building these two racing cars.
What’s your tipple?
Baileys. On the rocks. My labrador, Bailey, is named after it. Which flavour? Always original.
You’ve known your teammate Lewis Hamilton since you were kids racing go-karts. What can you tell us about him, aged 15?
He hasn’t changed much. His private life has changed, obviously, because he didn’t have the wealth he now has – as he came from quite a simple background. Other than that, there’s no difference.
He wasn’t dating a Pussycat Doll back then, though?
Well he’s not doing that now either, is he? [Laughs]
If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself?
To myself? Listen to my parents more. Because they’re always a good guide, and it’s difficult for teenagers to listen to them, but five years later you look back and think, “Ah, yes, my parents did say that. Damn, I should’ve listened.”
Aside from winning the F1 World Championship, what are your goals for this season?
A healthy daughter being born this month. It’s an exciting time for us.
Will you be on track by day, knee deep in nappies by night?
I’m gonna be hands-on. But how it’s gonna change my life, how much they’ll travel with me – I don’t know.
What’s your earliest memory?
Ayrton Senna driving through the tunnel on TV in Monaco – I could hear the sound as I was sleeping in my bed. It woke me up on the Saturday morning, and then switching on the TV and seeing him in his yellow helmet. It was 1988, I was three years old.
You’re pretty good at this driving lark, but if you could be a professional at another sport, what would it be?
Tennis or soccer. Or golf, actually. I was watching the British Open at St Andrews, and that was really fascinating. So at the moment I’d love to be good at golf.
What’s your favourite food?
Italian – pizza and stuff. Which I’m not allowed to eat, because I have to stay away from gluten. I’m on a permanent diet, so I can’t eat anything like that. Even off-season I can’t have it, as the diet’s increased my wellbeing – although, of course, I’ll have the odd day off and go for a pizza. It’s not 100 per cent strict.
Do you have any home comforts that are always in your suitcase?
I write in a diary, actually, adding any interesting discussions I’ve had throughout the day, or anything that comes into my mind. Just looking back three months, I think, “Wow! No way! I was doing that?”
Have you ever been mistaken for someone else?
Yep. Checking into a hotel in Geneva last year they said, “Hello Mr Hamilton.” I answered, “Actually I’m Rosberg, but I can understand – we look similar, so it’s easy to confuse us.”
Have you ever had a ‘normal’ job?
I enrolled to study aeronautics at Imperial College London. But then I took a gap year and didn’t go, because the racing was going so well. I also played tennis when I was young, for the Monaco team.
Finally, who’d be your dream guests at a dinner party?
I know the answers already: Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, my wife and… Fangio. Juan Manuel Fangio, the Mercedes driver from the Fifties.
Nico Rosberg is the official ambassador for Thomas Sabo ‘Rebel At Heart’ collections. New collection in stores and online, including the new flagship store, South Molton St