The original ‘Flying Finn’ and World Champion of 1982, Keke Rosberg, is celebrating his 62nd birthday today!
The chain-smoking Keke (born ‘Keijo’ in his homeland) was one of my first F1 heroes during the turbo-era heydays of the 1980s, and was well-regarded for his combative skills behind the wheel, and in particular on street circuits, where his skill was really magnified.
Keke first rose to prominence in a rain-soaked International Trophy event at Silverstone in 1978, which he won in a little-fancied Theodore.
The next few years were spent driving for Wolf and Fittipaldi at the back of the grid, but he did enough to get signed by Williams for the 1982 season.
Thrust into the role of team leader when his mercurial team-mate, Carlos Reutemann, decided to slink into retirement, he hustled the normally-aspirated Williams to some outstanding results against the quicker (but more fragile) turbo machinery, taking his first win with a brilliant drive at Dijon.
Despite having just a single win to his name, he took the title in a crazy championship season where 11 drivers took a race victory and no one won more than twice that year.
Staying on with Williams until 1985, he took all of his subsequent race wins on street circuits, but proved equally skilled on road courses, holding the outright fastest-ever single lap record between 1985-2001 due to his 160mph qualifying effort at Silverstone.
Wanting a final crack at the title, he moved to the in-form McLaren team alongside Alain Prost in 1986 and discovered – to his horror – a team-mate who was faster than him in a car that did not suit his own love of 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 when he ran out of fuel. 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 last-ever F1 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 Häkkinen and J.J. Lehto, along with his son, Nico.
Hope you have a wonderful birthday, Keke!