Good Oil: Rosberg retirement ruckus
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Poor old Nico Rosberg. Despite being a technically brilliant (and remarkably patient) driver for the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team for all those seasons, he was still second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton.
But there must be some sort of self-defeat bug in his software. Because, after years of trying, as soon as the Monaco-German finally won the world championship, he announced his shock retirement.
That was a surprise in itself. To fans and to his compatriots: Hamilton probably had to be physically restrained from taking to Twitter immediately. But it appears no one in his team had any heads-up the new star driver (and, let us reiterate this just the once; world champion) was planning to quit if he managed to secure the title.
Cue bafflement in the Mercedes team garage as execs Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda struggle to figure out what to do now that the winningest team in F1 since 2014 has a vacant seat.
Of particular concern to Rosberg should be some of the statements Lauda has made to the European press. Lauda seemed rather miffed when German newspaper Welt am Sonntag asked for his reaction to Rosberg splitting just five days after winning the world championship crown. "I am a notorious planner, always with an emergency plan, and even I did not expect such a thing," he said. "You have to accept if Nico wants to go. But on the other, Nico signed a two-year contract with us in August. What bothers me is Nico tells us if he had not become world champion, he would have gone on. I think he could at least have hinted at this when he agreed to the contract. After all, 1200 people of the F1 division at Mercedes gave him every opportunity to become world champion with a super car. Then he gave us his resignation overnight."
Lauda has a point. While the F1 coverage we generally see on screen is distinctly British in flavour (and distinctly favourable to the world's trendiest whiner, Lewis Hamilton), the German's departure will certainly represent a 165cm-sized spanner in the usually meticulous workings of the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team.
The next question -- other than who arranged for that Kray twins-style wreath decorated with Austrian swearwords to be delivered to Rosberg's apartment -- is who will replace Nico on the grid next year?
Valentino Rossi wants a go, which would be interesting -- and probably something a back-marker team such as Force India might briefly consider. But not Mercedes. It needs proven talent. Although we're sure Hamilton is probably petitioning they just have the one driver from now on.
Mazda's reality check on those RX 9 rumours
In an interview with an American news outlet last week, Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai basically issued a "calm down" notice to the world's motoring media: the long-rumoured, highly anticipated RX-9 probably isn't going to be a thing.
Kogai-san confirmed to Automotive News that Mazda isn't planning any sports car bigger than the existing MX-5, effectively destroying motoring writer fantasies about driving an ever-so-slightly modified-for-production version of the carmaker's excellent RX VISION concept car around a convenient race track anytime soon.
This rather deflating news doesn't mean Mazda is no longer pursuing development of a rotary engine, however. Kogai-san says a rotary unit could see use as a range-extender in a hybrid driveline; sounds like a wasted opportunity to us ... unless that hybrid was also a sports car.
So, though the tinsel hangs limply at that news, we figure as long as the rotary remains on Mazda's development schedule, a new RX model at some stage shouldn't be ruled out. And if Toyota's reborn Supra proves the impressive beast we hope it will be in a couple of years, it will be interesting to see if Mazda changes its tune.
Aussie battler a Legend in its own lifetime
The big, boxy Y61-era Patrol has disappeared from Aussie dealerships. While here in New Zealand we migrated to the rounder Y62 generation Patrol as soon as it became available in 2010, the Aussies hung on to the previous generation in tandem with the newcomer; a stalwart of Red Centre adventure.
Nissan Australia is celebrating the outgoing Y61 Patrol with a Legend Edition, limited to 300 units. It features extra off-road-appropriate fare, including an airbag-compatible steel bull bar with electric winch, a tow bar, roof rack, snorkel, soft spare wheel cover and extra tech in the cabin in the form of satellite navigation (to help you figure out if you're "lost" or "hopelessly lost") and a reversing camera to aid with backing up to the camper trailer.
Throwing progress into stark relief is that the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel Patrol Legend Edition comes with a five-speed manual or four-speed auto box. That's 1997 calling, which is when this model first surfaced. Over 104,000 have been sold in Australia in the intervening 19 years.
Why are we telling you about this outdated limited edition you can't even buy here? We love a good Patrol; the boxier the better. We've been tempted by used import fifth generation (Y60) examples (just try finding a good condition short wheelbase version these days). But in the years ahead, this double-dipped Y61 version could be the best old-school Nissan 4x4 you're likely to find.