Former Formula 1 driver Nico Rosberg won’t be behind the wheel of Tesla’s Nurburgring record attempt because he isn’t qualified enough – and it’s likely he wasn’t aware of the rules when he offered his driving services via Twitter.
While Rosberg is qualified to race on the circuit, he doesn’t have a licence that makes him eligible to participate in car industry track testing days, which involves a three-day assessment, training and accreditation process.
Some have speculated he might get a free pass given he is Germany’s most recent F1 champion, however it’s more likely Thomas Mutsch was chosen ahead of Rosberg because Mutsch has more experience on the perilous 20.8km circuit than the former F1 champion.
While Mutsch has not announced and Tesla has not confirmed he's driving, his helmet can be seen in some of the photos from Thursday’s session, where the car completed just five laps.
Some helpful background on what it takes to become an approved automotive industry test-day driver at the Nurburgring can be found on performance websites Evo and Motor, the latter quoting Holden test driver Rob Trubiani, who earned the qualifications to set a lap record in the Holden SS ute.
Nico Rosberg started the speculation on driving for Tesla via Twitter with a message to Tesla boss Elon Musk that said “give me a call if you need a decent driver to do the lap!”. Musk replied: “Thanks for offering! Sure, that would be great".
Then, by chance, CarAdvice’s electric-car expert Paul Maric bumped into Rosberg at this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show. When asked how the Tesla drive was progressing, he replied: “I’m still in discussions with Tesla, nothing has been confirmed yet”. Rosberg declined to answer further questions and the conversation wrapped up.
The next day a red Tesla Model S with wider wheels, fender flares and a rear wing was spotted on public roads near the Nurburgring.
On Thursday the same car completed just five laps of the circuit during the automotive industry test day. Photos show the helmet of Thomas Mutsch behind the wheel.
Musk said the team needs more time: “we probably won't try for best lap time this week as we need to review and tune Model S thoroughly for safety on Nurburgring, especially Flugplatz section”.
Mutsch is a formidable choice. The German driver is a Nurburgring and LeMans specialist, competing in the FIA GT and FIA GT3 championships. Here is a photo of him getting serious air at high speed at the most recent Nurburgring 24 Hour.