SHANGHAI (Reuters) - After waiting 111 races for his first win, Nico Rosberg accepted that he might have to be patient a while longer before celebrating properly.
The Mercedes driver looked around the Chinese Grand Prix paddock as mechanics and truckies packed up the cars and freight to be flown out of Shanghai early on Monday bound for a controversial race in Bahrain.
“It’s a bit of a pity that we have the next race coming up next weekend because everyone is busy packing and everything,” he declared, the forklifts beeping behind him as dusk fell.
“But there will be more wins to come so we have plenty of time to go crazy celebrating.”
The party may have to wait until after Bahrain, with the travelling circus heading for the Gulf kingdom with considerable trepidation and no mood for frivolity while political unrest and violence continues on the streets.
Only four Formula One drivers have waited longer than Rosberg for a first win and one of them was on the podium with him in Shanghai on Sunday with Britain’s Jenson Button finishing second for McLaren.
Button, who delights in jokingly calling the blond German “Britney”, had to wait 113 races but won the championship with what is now Rosberg’s team in 2009. Both were similarly precocious talents.
The German is still only 26 and has plenty of time to catch up - and to discover whether he has a win bonus written into his Mercedes contract.
“(Austrian triple world champion) Niki (Lauda) just said to me ‘From now on, winning gets easy’,” laughed Rosberg. “So if that’s the case I’ll take it. He must know.”
The son of Finland’s 1982 champion, and only the third son of a winner to win himself, Rosberg had the perfect weekend after drawing a blank in the opening two races in Australia and Malaysia.
He took his first pole on Saturday by a massive margin of more than half a second and took the chequered flag with his rivals down the road and out of sight. Button crossed the line 20.626 seconds later.
So effortless seemed the victory that Rosberg did not have to overtake anyone in anger and ended the race with an unused set of new tyres still sitting on the shelf in the Mercedes garage after he made just two pitstops.
Before Sunday, the Monaco-based driver had only a solitary second place - in Singapore with Williams in 2008 - and four thirds. But he never doubted his abilities.
“I was convinced that my time would come when the car is ready. And today was the day,” he said. “My Dad said when the time is right it will come, just keep on believing it and be patient.”
The win acquired far more resonance given it was by a German driver in a Mercedes, the German manufacturer whose last win as a works team came with the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio back in 1955.
”I‘m pleased for everybody. It’s been a long time coming now
for all of us, the whole team,” said Rosberg, who drenched a beaming Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug in champagne on the podium.
Button did not expect Rosberg to wait as long as him for a second win, with the McLaren driver having to wait three years after his first with Honda in 2006 before getting back to the top of the podium with Brawn.
“I‘m sure that this won’t be Nico’s first and last win,” he said in the post-race news conference.
“They, the team, seem very competitive this year and Nico obviously hasn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. So I think we’re going to have a battle on our hands.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Meadows