5 Ways Nico Rosberg's Contract Extension Could Affect 2015 F1 Seat Race
The German driver has been a constant presence on the team since Mercedes established their own Formula One outfit in 2010 and, after years of difficulty alongside Michael Schumacher, now has his first shot at the title this season.
The four-time grand prix winner's new deal offers him a sense of security in his battle with teammate Lewis Hamilton, but has far-reaching consequences where the rest of the grid is concerned.
Here are five reasons why Rosberg's new deal is a significant development in the driver market.
Mercedes Drivers Must Play Nicely
Rosberg's new deal means Mercedes now cannot allow the tension of this season's title fight between the German and teammate Lewis Hamilton to boil over.
Despite a friendship stretching back to their karting careers, the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg has appeared strained at times already this year, with the latter appearing rattled by the British driver's recent four-race winning streak.
With Rosberg now contracted for at least two more years, and the deal Hamilton signed in September 2012 not due to expire until the end of next season, the pressure is on the pair of them to battle with maturity.
If either of them do cross the line this year, rendering their position untenable, it will be difficult to find alternative employment that will present as good an opportunity as Hamilton and Rosberg currently have.
Fernando Alonso Is Stuck with Ferrari...
It wasn't too long ago that Formula One's biggest teams would have moved mountains to get Fernando Alonso in one of their cars.
Alonso has displayed a willingness to leave Ferrari since the summer of 2013, when he was quoted by Andrew Benson of BBC Sport as saying that he would like "someone else's car" for a birthday present.
The Spaniard had appeared to pinpoint the dominant Mercedes team as a favourable destination for 2015, telling Mike Wise of Sky Sports how he felt a lack of support from his "closest friends" only days after Dieter Zetsche, the Mercedes boss, described Alonso as the best driver on the grid.
Mercedes' commitment to Rosberg, though, leaves Alonso with few options, given his unwillingness to work with McLaren chief Ron Dennis after the pair's troubled relationship in 2007 as well as the stable line-ups of other top teams.
... Which Ensures Red Bull's 'Dream Team' Will Remain a Reality
Adrian Newey's dismissal of an approach by Ferrari, as reported by Pete Gill of Sky Sports, has led to talk of when Red Bull's "dream team" of the aerodynamic expert, Christian Horner, and Sebastian Vettel will begin to fall apart.
And although it may be difficult to pinpoint when exactly the core of the four-time world champions will crumble, we can be almost certain of one thing:
If Nico Rosberg's new contract with Mercedes means Fernando Alonso is left with no option but to stay with Ferrari, Vettel's long-awaited move to the Prancing Horse will not take place in time for the 2015 season.
Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari's president, was quoted by BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in February 2013 as stating that the pair could not co-exist at the Scuderia.
The Vettel-to-Ferrari rumours won't go away, which suggests a transfer will happen one day—but the given circumstances mean it won't occur as soon as next year.
The Key Is Passed to McLaren
Prior to Rosberg's contract extension, Mercedes arguably held the key to the driver market.
With the fastest car and a solid staff structure at their disposal, the Silver Arrows effectively could have picked any driver they wanted.
Their commitment to the German, however, makes McLaren the only leading team with realistically potential vacancies for 2015.
Jenson Button earlier this season informed Motorsport.com of his desire to remain at the team, even with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, while rookie Kevin Magnussen is still not clear from the clutches of Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren's reserve driver, despite securing a podium finish in his debut race.
And that's before you consider the priorities of Honda, McLaren's power unit partner from next season, who may or may not want to attract a big name to lead their return to the sport.
Nico Hulkenberg to Remain in the Dark?
After missing out on the second Ferrari seat to Kimi Raikkonen last summer, it was thought that 2014 would be Nico Hulkenberg's final year in the purgatory of the midfield.
His talent, it was assumed, was surely too obvious and exciting for leading teams to continue ignoring.
Only recently, we explained how Hulkenberg would be an ideal candidate for Mercedes in terms of his ferocious pace on-track and his charming personality outside the car.
However, the seemingly stable line-ups at the German team, Red Bull and Ferrari—as long as Fernando Alonso keeps his toys in the pram and Kimi Raikkonen's mojo doesn't evaporate—means Hulkenberg's pathway to the elite may again be blocked.
Indeed, there may be an opening at McLaren—but they are currently an elite team only in name.