Hamilton much more talented: Rosberg

German says his ambition at Mercedes had always been to get the best out of himself

Mercedes F1 drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton after qualifying at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix. The German retired at the end of that season after winning his sole drivers' title.
Mercedes F1 drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton after qualifying at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix. The German retired at the end of that season after winning his sole drivers' title.ST FILE PHOTO

VIENNA • Nico Rosberg knows better than most what it takes to become a Formula One world champion but when it comes to talent, the German admitted he was always likely to come second-best to his former teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Both men were together at Mercedes from 2013 to 2016, a period that marked the rise of the manufacturer. Hamilton won the drivers' title in 2014 and 2015 while Rosberg was victorious in 2016 before his shock retirement.

Hamilton has picked up another three championships and was heavily favoured to claim his fourth straight this season until the coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc on the sport's schedule.

Hamilton, 34, is one behind Michael Schumacher's record of seven championships and with 84 race wins, is also second behind the German's record haul of 91.

Such achievements have left little doubt in Rosberg's mind about Hamilton's genius.

In a recent interview with Austrian newspaper Der Standard, Rosberg said: "Some people race and maybe don't have the talent of a Lewis Hamilton, where I might be able to count myself.

"That's why it's not realistic for me to be a world champion nine times, just as he might be able to do it. That is not my ambition. My ambition is to get the best out of myself and that's what I've set myself."

The 34-year-old, who was runner-up to Hamilton in the 2014 and 2015 campaigns and quit F1 five days after clinching his maiden world crown, also conceded that he would have been mentally scarred had he lost the 2016 championship to the Briton.

He led the standings and was 12 points clear of Hamilton heading into the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Rosberg finished second in that race - which Hamilton won - to claim the title by five points.

Rosberg added: "As an athlete, you have to try to find the balance and keep focusing on optimising your own abilities. That's what I learnt over time. I have made progress, but it is so difficult to make big strides.

"I think the most successful athletes have that balance and not just focus on results."

ONCE WILL DO NICELY

Some people race and maybe don't have the talent of a Lewis Hamilton, where I might be able to count myself. That's why it's not realistic for me to be a world champion nine times, just as he might be able to do it.

NICO ROSBERG, who tips his former Mercedes ace team-mate to win three more drivers' titles.

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

He did his job and he keeps doing it... He has the equipment and he's making the most of it and that's what a driver's supposed to do.

MARIO ANDRETTI, the 1978 world champion, on Hamilton doing extremely well in a great car.

While Hamilton's record has left little debate about his place in F1's history, some critics have suggested he has been fortunate with his career choices. Hamilton spent six years (2007-12) at McLaren, winning one world title in 2008, before he moved to the Silver Arrows in 2013.

Mario Andretti, the 1978 world champion, was confident Hamilton will surpass Schumacher's overall tally but pointed out that the Briton, who won 20 races while at McLaren, has always raced in a competitive car.

The American told online sports agency Omnisport: "I don't remember in his (Hamilton) Formula 1 career whether, if at any time, he was with a non-winning potential car.

"He did his job and he keeps doing it, so I'm all in. Obviously I've always been a fan of his and he's, I'm sure, the envy of many other drivers. He has the equipment and he's making the most of it and that's what a driver's supposed to do."

The Covid-19 pandemic has left the F1 season in flux with the growing likelihood of a shortened programme of races. But even these disruptions have not altered Felipe Massa's conviction that Mercedes remain the dominant force ahead of Red Bull and his former team Ferrari.

The Brazilian told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport in an Instagram Live interview: "From what I've seen so far, it seems that Mercedes with Lewis are the fastest. I don't think that fewer races is going to change that, because the factories of the teams are closed.

"I think Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen can become future world champions. But that means they have to win in these times where the difference between teams is greater than the influence of the driver."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2020, with the headline 'Hamilton much more talented: Rosberg'. Subscribe