Keke Rosberg, F1’s first true "Flying Finn", turns 61 today!
The chain-smoking Keke cut his teeth in Formula Vee and F2 before making his mark on the F1 stage by winning the rain-hit 1978 International Trophy race at Silverstone in a Theodore.
He drove for the Wolf team in 1979 and between 1980-1 he drove for ailing Fittipaldi team, but left midway through the second season. Nonetheless, he’d made enough of an impression to secure a Williams seat for 1982.
Expected to take a number two role to Carlos Reutemann, he was propelled into the role of team leader when the moody Argentinean suddenly retired. Incredibly, he took the title with a single victory (a brilliant drive to beat Alain Prost’s Renault at Dijon) at the wheel of the naturally-aspirated Cosworth-powered car, in a tight season where no driver won more than two races.
Rosberg stayed with Williams until the end of 1985, securing all of his subsequent race victories at street circuits where his ability to hustle his car through the concrete-lined confines was nothing short of sublime. That being said, he was equally combative on open circuits, and held the fastest-ever single lap at Silverstone in 1985, a record which he held until 2001.
Wanting a final crack at the title, he moved to the in-form McLaren team alongside Alain Prost and discovered – to his horror – a team-mate who was faster than him in a car that did not suit his penchant for oversteer. Often unable to reconcile the Porsche-powered car’s fuel consumption requirements with the weight of his right foot, Keke all-too-frequently lost better results with fuel starvation issues. His few highlights were a fine second at Monaco (with two scintillating passes of Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari along the main straight), and a fine lead at his final race in Australia, where he looked set to win until his tyre failed.
Since ending his F1 tenure, Rosberg has dabbled in DTM and Le Mans, in addition to managing the careers of fellow F1 Finns, Mika Hakkinen and J.J. Lehto, along with his son, Nico.
Hope you have a wonderful birthday, Keke!
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