Nico Rosberg says that Lewis Hamilton’s outstanding ability to always position his car in the “grey area” when racing wheel-to-wheel is one of his many huge strengths.
Rosberg and Hamilton raced alongside each other at Mercedes from 2013 to 2016, when the German driver retired from the sport after finally beating his intrepid teammate to the world title.
From 2014, the pair were in a league of their own thanks to the Silver Arrows squad’s engineering excellence. As a result of their superiority, Mercedes’ drivers often raced among themselves, enjoying many fierce battles.
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And Rosberg highlighted his former rival’s extraordinary skills when sparring wheel-to-wheel.
“It’s just unbelievable how he positions the car so smartly,” Rosberg explained in a Formula 1 podcast with former driver David Coulthard.
“Whenever I would try to go up against him and hold my own and fight back he would always manage to stay in the grey area.
“Whenever I would try, sometimes I would just straightaway jump over the grey area into the black area, which is not allowed.
“He would just be so skilled at keeping it in the grey area, never really making it 100 percent his fault, that was a huge strength of his, these wheel-to-wheel battles. One of those huge strengths that he has of many.”
Rosberg recalled his initial reaction at the end of 2013 upon learning of Hamilton’s arrival at Mercedes, a team the German had joined in 2010 and where he had fended off for three seasons the ambitions of one Michael Schumacher.
“I was like, ok, done, I’ve conquered the most difficult guy out there. And then they say Lewis Hamilton is incoming. And I knew how good Lewis was because I raced him in go-karts for many years and I knew that he was extra-special.
“With Lewis coming, actually, it wasn’t any negativity in my mind. I was looking forward to this challenge. He was world champion and remember that by the time Lewis arrived I had just won one single Formula 1 race. And here was the great Lewis Hamilton coming into the team.
So it was very, very uneven in terms of statistical results in the past. But I relished that and I took it on. And I had learnt a lot by then.
“So I was really able straight away actually from the get-go I was really able to be playing level field with Lewis all the way through.”
Rosberg and Hamilton and grown up together in karting and risen through the ranks, establishing a solid friendship along the way.
But F1’s massive pressures and the intense intra-team rivalry at Mercedes eventually crushed the pair’s affinity and friendliness.
“In 2013 it was still pretty much easy going because we weren’t fighting for race wins and we used to be really best friends,” Rosberg said. “So that was a decent start.
“But then going into 2014, that’s when you noticed then because once you’re fighting for race wins and for championships, there’s so much at stake.
“It’s like your dream is at stake. Both of us dreamed of winning the world championship with Mercedes. It’s so big.
“So then you just start to make compromises and it’s the friendship that gets compromised in return for winning races. It just went small step by small step and it just builds up. It was tough.”
Interestingly, Rosberg revealed that his intense rivalry with Hamilton unfolded while much was going on “behind the scenes”.
“There are still many untold stories, and maybe in 10, 20, 30 years’ time we’ll start to talk about more of those stories,” he said.
“There was so much going on behind the scenes, so much politics, so much discussion, it was mentally very, very challenging.”
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