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Of all the criticisms directed at Rosberg in recent years, two have stood out above the rest.

The first is that he lacks the skill, bravery and judgement of his closest rivals in wheel-to-wheel combat.

The second? Following an untidy end to 2014 and that unforced error while leading the 2015 United States GP, he has an unfortunate habit of cracking under pressure at pivotal moments.

Those were said to be the biggest hurdles preventing Rosberg from making the leap from a serial race winner to a world champion, and—on his day of destiny—it was almost as though he took it upon himself to clear them both at once.

To prove they were nothing more than myths, to demonstrate just how far he has come.

Rosberg had seemed set to take the lead during the first round of pit stops, when Hamilton’s slow stop opened an opportunity for the No. 6 car.

But a slow stop of his own—a function of his mechanics’ desperation to avoid an unsafe-release penalty as Vettel trundled by—saw a potential first place become third and, all of a sudden, his race was not quite as comfortable as it appeared.

When it became clear Verstappen had adopted a one-stop strategy, Rosberg was informed over team radio how it was critical to overtake the teenager and—in a move reminiscent of Button’s series of now-or-never passes at Brazil 2009—he wasted little time.

Battling the most creative, aggressive racer in F1, he beat Verstappen on the brakes into Turn 8, avoided locking up, muscled himself alongside the boy wonder, breezed past the underpowered Red Bull on the straight that followed and then switched across the track to guard against a counter-attack.

At that point, it seemed Rosberg had already done enough, only for Hamilton’s tactics to put him in the most difficult position in the closing laps, when he watched his rear-view mirrors almost as much as the track ahead.

With the four leading cars running too close for comfort, Rosberg knew the slightest error would be enough to lose those two positions and, with them, the championship, but he remained composed to finish second and finally finish the job.

It wasn’t just a champion’s drive—it was a day for clearing hurdles, for breaking down walls, for taking that final step.



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