Last season Nico Rosberg polarised fans of Formula One.
In interviews he came across well spoken, always happy to explain his point in detail, explaining the difficulties of Formula One in easy to understand sound-bites.
As an ambassador for the sport, Nico Rosberg was excellent.
But then on track his behaviour had some spectators questioning his motives.
The incidents at Monaco and Belgium were the obvious stand-out flash points in the 2014 Formula One World Championship.
His error in Monaco qualifying which engineered his pole position and race victory by blocking team-mate Lewis Hamilton from a shot at pole position was the first example of underhand tactics.
Many were happy to give him the benefit of the doubt at the time, but as races went by and the collision and aftermath of that crash in Spa came out in hindsight many F1 fans changed their opinion.
Rosberg admitted to deliberately opting to not avoid a crash with team-mate Hamilton, a crash which forced Hamilton out of the race, whilst Rosberg went on to secure 18 points on his rival.
At the time it looked like a move that could have been a potential championship decider; Rosberg holding a 29 point lead over Hamilton with only seven races remaining.
Mind games continued throughout the rest of the season, but unfortunately for Rosberg, Hamilton turned on the form from this race onwards and hasn’t stepped off form since.
He won six of the final seven races of 2014 to take the Formula One World Championship and that form has continued into 2015, taking two of the opening three races of the season.
The Brit seems focussed on taking full advantage of his Mercedes to take his third Formula One title and potentially surpassing his idol Ayrton Senna’s record for race wins come the end of 2015.
Rosberg meanwhile has won once in the last 12 races and doesn’t look close to matching his team-mates performances.
In Australia and Malaysia, he was criticised for being too nice and soft. Comments along the lines of, Hamilton was better than me, It was a Champions drive, I wasn’t good enough, came across as defeatist to many F1 pundits. It played down his own performances and bigged up that of Hamilton.
Whilst his jokes with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari appeared to also be misplaced, especially with Ferrari’s recent resurgence.
But in China we saw a different Nico Rosberg. The happy, talkative and honest Rosberg was gone, replaced overnight by a moody, argumentative Rosberg on the apparent instruction of Mercedes.
?If Nico had scuttled off and said nothing [after the race], we?d have said ?that?s weak ? why?s he not fighting back? He?s been playing the nice guy in the first two races and we categorically know he?s been told to stop all that, it?s just feeding Lewis?s confidence.’ Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle said.
Rosberg’s main gripe in China, other than being soundly beaten by his team-mate throughout the weekend, was his interpretation of how the race was managed by Hamilton.
The German made numerous post-race complaints about Hamilton, much to the surprise of the media and his team.
Rosberg accused Hamilton of deliberately backing him into Vettel, potentially giving Ferrari a chance to undercut him during the pit-stops and putting the teams one-two finish in jeopardy.
‘It?s just now interesting to hear from you, Lewis, that you were just thinking about yourself with the pace in front, and necessarily that was compromising my race. Driving slower than was maybe necessary at the beginning of stints meant that Sebastian was very close to me and that opened up the opportunity for Sebastian to try that early pitstop to try and jump me. And then I had to cover him. So, first of all it was unnecessarily close with Sebastian as a result, and also it cost me a lot of race time as a result because I had to cover him and then my tyres died at the end of the race because my stint was just so much longer. So I?m unhappy about that, of course, today. Other than that, not much to say. he told formula1.com.
Not surprisingly Hamilton had little sympathy for Rosberg following the race.
‘My job is not to look after Nico?s race. My job?s to manage the car and bring the car home as healthy and as fast as possible – and that?s what I did. I didn?t do anything intentionally to slow any of the cars up. I just was focussing on myself. If Nico wanted to get by he could have tried but he didn?t.
And that very point is why so many people after the race were bemused by Rosberg’s comments.
Hamilton maintained a 2 seconds advantage over Rosberg during the period that Rosberg was complaining over radio for Hamilton to go faster.
When a radio feed telling Hamilton to speed up was broadcast on TV, Hamilton sped up and the gap increased to 4 seconds.
Rosberg neither closed the gap to Hamilton or was able to maintain the gap when Hamilton pushed his Mercedes.
Equally the gap between Rosberg and Ferrari’s Vettel remained constant, with no apparent threat from Vettel ever forthcoming.
Speaking to the BBC after the race, despite having time to cool off and reflect, Rosberg continued to criticise Hamilton: ‘It was very frustrating Lewis was taking it as easy on his tyres. Interestingly, he said he was just thinking about himself and that says it all.
Was this merely a less than subtle over night personality change on the command of Mercedes as Brundle suggests? Or was Rosberg trying to destabilise the relationship between Mercedes and Hamilton during a period where Hamilton’s contract extension talks appear to be stalling?
If it was the latter it failed as he got little sympathy from Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff: ‘There wasn’t any intention from Lewis to slow Nico down in order to make him finish third or worse, 100%.
‘He didn’t know the gaps behind Nico. What he knew was that he had to take that tyre longer than we had ever run it the whole weekend.’
One of the biggest questions to come out of China is, who is the real Rosberg?
Is it the friendly nice guy often seen during interviews?
Is it the calculating “bad guy”, that he was accused of being in Monaco and Belgium last year?
Is it a frustrated driver, knowing that his chance of race victories and championships is passing him by due to under performing in competition from Hamilton?
Or is it all of the above at different points over the past twelve months?
Whatever the answer, seemingly unsubstantiated accusations towards your team-mate is not the way to go and has very much tainted the public persona of Rosberg.
Vital talking points – Who is the real Rosberg?
Last season Nico Rosberg polarised fans of Formula One.