Nico Rosberg tells of his willingness to befriend Lewis Hamilton
Nico Rosberg insists George Russell can’t afford to play the “nice guy” if he hopes to overtake Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes’ No 1. Russell and Hamilton’s rivalry has been intensifying over the course of the 2023 season and came to a boiling point at the Qatar Grand Prix earlier this month.
Hamilton collided with Russell on lap one at the Losail international circuit, as he attempted to move around the outside of his team-mate. The seven-time world champion careered off onto the gravel after making contact with his fellow countryman while Russell was forced to pit for a front wing change as well as new tyres due to damage sustained in the crash.
The pair traded barbs on the radio with Hamilton placing the blame on Russell for not giving him enough room. However, he later admitted he was “100 per cent at fault” for the collision. Posting to social media shortly after the race’s conclusion, Hamilton wrote: “I’ve watched the replay and it was 100% my fault and I take full responsibility. Apologies to my team and to George.”
Former Mercedes driver Rosberg has advised Russell to continue to dig his heels in when it comes to contentious situations if he hopes to one day take the reins from Hamilton.
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“Things have been heating up there because also in Suzuka it was well over the limit on one occasion when they both took each other off the track. So, it’s interesting to follow,” he told Sky Sports. “I hope that Toto [Wolff] is managing that carefully because you have got to be ahead of the curve there and not let things spiral.
“It’s a very difficult situation for George because unfortunately, you can’t be the nice guy in that situation because you have to keep the pressure on and make it difficult for the team because otherwise, the team is going to take the easiest route. It’s very uncomfortable because George needs to be pushing.
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“We hear George doing it on the radio and it was good in Qatar for him because Hamilton actually admitted so it was a big win for George. During my time he never had to admit in that way and it is very rare for Lewis to be 100 per cent at fault.”
Rosberg knows a thing or two about fearsome rivalries with Hamilton. The pair locked horns during the latter stages of the German’s F1 career as they scrapped it out for world championship glory in the Mercedes seats.
In 2016, at the Spanish Grand Prix, their rivalry came to a head when Hamilton recklessly attempted to overtake his team-mate and ended up spinning out onto the grass – taking Rosberg with him. Toto Wolff was left infuriated by the pair allowing their personal goals to get in the way of the team – and placed stricter restrictions on them going forward.
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