LONDON • Nico Rosberg hailed Lewis Hamilton's record 92nd Formula One victory and sporting longevity as a great achievement on Tuesday but said the way the Briton was using his platform to raise awareness for global issues was just as impressive.
The pair were teammates and fierce rivals at Mercedes from 2013 until 2016, with the German retiring after winning his maiden championship that year.
Rosberg was also a teammate of Michael Schumacher, whose record Hamilton broke in Portugal last Sunday, from 2010-12 after the Ferrari great returned to the sport with the Silver Arrows following a four-year absence.
"I have huge respect for what he's managed to achieve," Rosberg told Reuters after a launch for the Extreme E off-road electric series that starts next year with both men entering teams.
"One thing is being at the level that he's at, just a phenomenal driver, but then to stick in there and year in, year out, stay at that high level and be the guy to beat every year and still dominate, that's just so hard.
"It surely will go down as one of the greatest sporting achievements in general, not only in F1, across all sports. I can just take my hat off to him."
Rosberg also said he was also "super proud" of having beaten someone destined to become the most successful F1 driver of all time.
Hamilton is odds-on to equal Schumacher's record of seven championships this season and few would bet against him next term.
Rosberg claimed that it was impossible to decide between Schumacher and Hamilton in terms of greatness and would put them as equals.
"At the same time, I think it's really cool how Lewis is using his platform and awareness to do good in the world. He's really looking forward, thinking about the future... I also have huge respect for that," he added.
"Amongst all this craziness of becoming the best of all time in F1, he still has capacity to think of the greater picture and that I respect maybe even more."
As F1's only black driver, Hamilton has been campaigning for racial justice while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and taking a knee before races this campaign.
He has also spoken about police violence in Nigeria and as a vegan and environmentalist, he has pushed for animal welfare, while setting up a commission to make motor sport more diverse.
Extreme E is a series that aims to highlight the effects of climate change by racing in extreme environments and is Hamilton's first venture as a team owner. While neither he nor Rosberg will be driving, they share a common sense of purpose.
"I want to be in sustainable racing. I want to be in motor sport where the platform is being used to drive positive change," said Rosberg. "That is the most important and crucial element for me, that we're not just entertaining but we're driving change.
"We're using the platform to innovate technology, to raise awareness, for example for climate change."