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Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and the art of losing

There's a certain irony in Lewis Hamilton having claimed his third drivers' title at the US Grand Prix, as the last driver to secure a championship in the United States was Keke Rosberg, father to a certain Nico. (Hint: not Hulkenberg)

But -- as has already been pointed out by the wits of the internet -- Nico Rosberg didn't wave farewell to his championship chances with a bit of wheelspin late in the American race. Whatever the mathematical reality, Rosberg lost the title months ago -- possibly even as early as last winter, when Hamilton set about identifying and eliminating his 2014 weaknesses in order to boost his claim on a third title.

What Rosberg seems to have forgotten is that there is a certain grace in losing with dignity, that a good sportsman can find himself venerated despite defeat.

In 2008, when Lewis claimed his first world championship, Felipe Massa had got there first. The Brazilian's term as world drivers' champion could be measured in minutes, but the grace with which he handled -- publicly -- a level of disappointment that most of us couldn't even imagine won the diminutive driver respect that endures to this day.

Despite having done everything he could to secure the title -- including qualifying on pole and winning the last race of the season -- Massa lost out thanks to Toyota's strategic fail. Nevertheless, he behaved like a consummate gentleman on the podium and in the post-race press conference, and made sure to seek out Hamilton to shake his hand and offer congratulations.

Any anger or misery he may have felt at the loss was kept behind closed doors.

Contrast that with the Austin podium, where second-placed Rosberg refused to join in on the traditional champagne spray-fest, having already petulantly tossed his podium baseball cap at Hamilton in the drivers' green room. Dignity and grace were in very short supply.

It's often said in Formula One that second place is merely first of the losers. In Austin, Nico Rosberg's actions made the old adage truer than it's ever been.