Nico Rosberg makes bold claim on success if he was Max Verstappen’s team-mate

Thomas Maher
Sky F1 pundit, 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, pictured in 2023.

Sky F1 pundit, 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, pictured in 2023.

Nico Rosberg reckons, in his prime, he could have brought the fight to Max Verstappen for championship glory, provided the same level of equipment.

Rosberg may be long retired from F1, having left the sport behind a few days after his title victory against Lewis Hamilton at the end of 2016, but the German driver reckons he could have been a thorn in the side of Max Verstappen had he stayed in F1.

The pair’s careers only briefly overlapped in any meaningful fashion, with Verstappen climbing into Red Bull in the same year that Rosberg won the title before retiring – although there were some intriguing on-track battles during that brief time together, Verstappen usually coming out on top…

Nico Rosberg hazards guess on how he’d fare as Max Verstappen’s teammate

Appearing on the Sky F1 podcast following the Italian Grand Prix, Rosberg was asked about how he felt he’d get on against 2023-spec Verstappen in equal machinery, while in his prime.

“I put Max on the same level as Lewis [Hamilton]. So that’s how I would do,” Rosberg bluntly said.

Having beaten Hamilton to the 2016 title in the same car, it was put to him that his suggestion then is that he feels he could have beaten Verstappen in equal machinery.

“Yeah, so that’s how I would do. That would be my best guess,” he said.

With podcast presenter Matt Baker and fellow guest Aldas intrigued by the claim, Baker said a lot of fans would love to see the battle take place, if Rosberg ever decided to come out of retirement.

“Let’s forget about that. That’s a long time ago,” Rosberg said.

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With all sorts of rumours swirling about Sergio Perez’s long-term position at Red Bull in what has been a tough year for the Mexican driver, the suggestion has been that Daniel Ricciardo is being lined up as a possible replacement – returning to the seat he left behind five years ago as he set out to carve a new path in the sport.

Alex Albon is another name that’s been linked, having raced with the team previously. While he was sidelined at the end of 2020, Albon impressed as Red Bull’s reserve and sim driver in ’21, with Red Bull helping him to secure his current seat with Williams.

Asked the hypothetical question of whether he’d take the second seat at Red Bull alongside Verstappen, Rosberg said: “Would I take it? No. Because I’m very happy with where I am in my life.

“But, if I was someone like Alex Albon… it really depends. It’s a difficult one, because you know that you’re just not going to have a chance against Max, because no one in the world will have a chance against Max.

“Yes, you have the best car, you can win races and be in the best team. But do you really do accept to put yourself into a place where you’re going to be a number two? That’s a decision that you have to ask yourself. Whereas someone like Daniel Ricardo, a couple of years ago, would never have accepted that.

“Now he’s in a place where he says, ‘OK, listen, Max is going to be one of the top five of all time, in line with [Ayrton] Senna, [Michael] Schumacher, Hamilton, [Juan Manuel] Fangio, and it would just still be lovely to be back at Red Bull and accept that I probably will be more of a number two there’.

“So it depends on you as a driver. I personally would not do it because he has so much experience in that team. It’s almost impossible for me, even in my prime, to go in there. And then expect to be able to dominate him? That’s not realistic. I would probably not, I would not have done it, I don’t think.”

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