By chance, I had my Sunday lunch with Mercedes F1 driver Nico Rosberg yesterday (the chance being that I was sat at the only table with enough spare seats for him, his girlfriend and various members of his team).
We didn’t exactly chat and chew the fat, but he was relaxed, confident and polite company. One of his biggest smiles came when I asked him whether he had a Mercedes SLS as a company car.
It seemed logical that he would – and I reckoned it would be interesting to get an F1 driver’s thoughts on a car that Autocar has just started running as a long-termer (the most expensive in the magazine’s history, we reckon).
“I love the car, it’s sensational,” said Nico. “But it wasn’t on offer as a company car. In fact, I asked about buying one I liked it so much, but they wouldn’t give me a discount. I tried to negotiate, but nothing. Not even one per cent, so no SLS for me.”
Resisting the urge to ask why a multi-millionaire racing driver needed a discount (and remembering well his F1 world champion father Keke’s penchant for shrewd negotiations as a driver and latterly driver manager), I smiled in sympathy. Then Nico’s face lit up.
“Actually, at least I found out they wouldn’t give me a discount before I ordered the car. I could change my mind. Ross (Brawn, Mercedes team principal) was only told there was no discount after his arrived. He had to pay the full price!”
So what does Nico drive? In previous years it was a C63 AMG – “a car I was very happy with” – but in Melbourne this year he was given the AMG tuned G-class for the weekend. After the race he put a call in to head office and asked for a new company car.
“I like throwing my bike in the car and taking off,” said Rosberg, “and, besides, the G-class has a certain something, well, different.”