Braking, Rosberg explains, is the big difference compared with a road car. “In the first part of braking, you hit it as hard as you can. There's so much grip because there's so much downforce. But, then, as you're slowing down, the grip of the car is reducing at the same time. So you have to ease off the brakes to get maximum deceleration.”
Do F1 drivers trail the brakes into the corner, gradually easing them off even as they turn? “Yeah, a lot. All the way to the point where you go onto the throttle, you're holding [the brakes] in,” Rosberg says.
However, this season's tires, noted for a wear rate that makes racing exciting rather than for their durability, don't always like doing that. “If you steer and brake, it's a longitudinal deceleration and a lateral acceleration. It can easily overload the front tires,” he explains.
Then you're at the apex. “We accelerate at the apex all the time,” says Rosberg. “You have to be very careful feeding the throttle. And as soon as you feel the rear going, you have to wait again.”
Is any lateral slip advantageous? “Yeah, yeah, of course,” he says. “You just need to find the right balance. There comes a point where you lose too much, so it's finding the right amount.”
Does that mean a neutral steer point, where the steering wheel is straight and the car is effectively slipping across the track? “That's the fastest way to drive,” says Rosberg. “It's like the rally guys: always driving on the rear. Because, with understeer, you have to wait and wait and wait and wait… until the car drives around the corner. Whereas with oversteer… it's just the fastest way.”
On top of that theory, “you always have little secrets everywhere, definitely,” says Rosberg. “And it's very small things. Often one driver is finding it here, and the other is finding it there, and you look at the others and take bits and pieces and try it yourself. There's many, many small pieces happening all the time.”
Which all sounds fine – if, that is, you're driving flat-out to your preferred style. With this season's tires and fuel loads, however, drivers were often not. The tires are “very sensitive,” says Rosberg. “You really have to drive so carefully; don't put any aggressive steering inputs into it because you lose time straight away.
“That's a very recent thing. It didn't used to be like that; you used to be able to just push and drive fast.”
So, er, is driving an F1 car fun?
“Oh yeah for sure, it's amazing!” enthuses Rosberg. “Especially the qualifying lap, when you're low on fuel and you can go for all the limits. Because nowadays you can't do the push, flat-out [all the time], so it's different. But for qualifying you can go flat-out. And as Mario Andretti said, if it all feels under control, you're not going fast enough.”
• Matt Prior is the Road Test Editor for AUTOCAR magazine.