Number 282: The Champions Issue
It’s one thing to talk of behavior that’s becoming of a champion, but what does that actually mean? If recent events are anything to go by, the answer depends on the champion in question.
If a champion is supposed to act with dignity and class, then it’s hard to look past Nico Rosberg. The German had been the new Formula 1 World Champion for less than a week when he decided he couldn’t muster the intensity and commitment required to defend his title next year, and that someone else could make better use of what will probably once again be the best car on the grid.
No doubt Mercedes would have liked a little more notice of his intentions, but they can’t fault his honesty. Edd Straw explores Rosberg’s motivation for winning, then walking.
Retiring at the top of the mountain takes a real courage, yet a different kind of courage is required to stick around and defend a championship. Doing that seven times? The only current driver in a position to speak about that with any authority is Jimmie Johnson. If 2016 has broadly been the year of rattling the establishment, then it’s entirely appropriate that a Californian carrying none of the traditional Stock Car genes should have chosen this season to join Petty and Earnhardt as NASCAR’s greatest. Tom Jensen looks at how Johnson has become such a force.
Organizations can exhibit a champion’s mentality as well, but in the case of Team Penske, that mentality has become the blueprint for its day-to-day operations. It paid off again this year in the Verizon IndyCar Series for Simon Pagenaud, so we wanted to find out more on what makes Penske a machine that can’t stop winning.
“Champion” isn’t a one-size-fits-all honor, and while it’s still a little soon for definitive hindsight on the 2016 season, it’s already taught us that there’s more than one way to wear a crown.