Rosberg unaware Hamilton would again be a rival

Jon Wilde
Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton

Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton

Nico Rosberg has insisted it was pure coincidence that he and Sir Lewis Hamilton will find themselves as rivals in the inaugural Extreme E series.

The former Mercedes colleagues, whose working relationship descended into animosity when they were fighting for F1 World Championships, have each founded an Extreme E team.

The series is FIA-sanctioned off-road racing, using electric SUVs in remote parts of the world such as the Sahara Desert, the Arctic Circle and the Amazon rainforest.

It gets under way in Saudi Arabia next month and features four more vastly different events before the end of the year.

Each team has a male-female driver combination and those taking part include Carlos Sainz Snr and Jenson Button – who also have their own teams – Sebastien Loeb, Williams development driver Jamie Chadwick and ex-F1 test driver and one-time racer Stephane Sarrazin.

Loeb, the consecutive nine-time World Rally Champion, will be competing for Hamilton’s Team X44 along with Cristina Gutierrez.

But Rosberg has denied that renewing his old rivalry with the Briton, which culminated in the German winning the 2016 World Championship before announcing his retirement days later, was an incentive to set up Rosberg Xtreme Racing.

Asked in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport who had got in first, the 35-year-old said: “It was super-weird because neither of us knew about the other.

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“We both negotiated [with the organisers] on the same days. Weird, right?

“It’s very nice that we both had the same idea and we have this focus on sustainability, on environmental issues.

“In the end, Lewis and I go back to racing against each other. We start a rivalry again that I feel very strongly about.

“I certainly don’t want to finish second and obviously he won’t either. We will fight, but for a good cause for the wellbeing of everyone in the future.

“It will be a season of great duels between Hamilton, Button and me.”

Asked whether he plans to get behind the wheel like Button, Rosberg added: “Bravo Button, but not me. I’m done with the steering wheel. Now I’m team principal and that’s it.”

However, Rosberg did reveal he had been picking up some management tips from his former Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff.

“During the test, we had an important sponsor dinner and I wanted the drivers [Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor] to be there,” Rosberg explained.

“During dinner, I found myself saying to them ‘you are tired, you can go to bed now’. Toto used to do that to me.

“It’s funny that I slipped into that role and it’s really beautiful.”

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