After being beaten comfortably at Imola, Nico Rosberg believes Lewis Hamilton will never want a repeat of that kind of disparity against George Russell.
Russell made the most of the race start on Sunday, managing to move up five places on the first lap and eventually pass Kevin Magnussen to then put himself in the top five, which eventually became a P4 finish after Charles Leclerc’s late spin.
Hamilton struggled meanwhile, finding himself stuck in the midfield in a train of cars and was first behind Lance Stroll, before being jumped past at the pit stops by Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.
The seven-time World Champion could not find a way past the AlphaTauri driver, with the pair in a DRS train for the second half of the race – and Hamilton ended up being lapped by eventual race winner Max Verstappen.
Russell has now opened up a 21-point lead over his illustrious team-mate at this early stage of the season, and Hamilton’s former Mercedes partner knows better than anyone how much he’ll want to get back on terms quickly.
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“That was tough to see Lewis in that state,” Rosberg said on Sky F1 after watching Hamilton’s paddock interview in which he ruled himself out of title contention.
“It’s understandable. It’s a long season but they [Mercedes] are nowhere with that car. They aren’t even going to be able to fight for race wins any time soon so it’s difficult for Lewis to keep his motivation up.
“But I think he will manage because he is a fighter. There is always going to be that thing of wanting to beat your team-mate. That is going to be really, really important to him.
“And with George performing so well, that could be the biggest motivator for Lewis to keep going and keep going because he does not want to see George in front of him ever again.
“I think that will keep the fire on.”
Team principal Toto Wolff admitted after the race that Mercedes had not provided a car “worthy” of Hamilton’s talents over the weekend, with the team having been well off the pace in both qualifying and Saturday’s sprint, with unfavourable track position proving key to Hamilton’s issues on Sunday – going so far as to say the W13 was “undriveable” for the 37-year-old.
The Briton’s P13 finish was only the second time since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix that he had been classified as a finisher outside the top 10, with the other coming at Baku in 2021, when his lock-up at the late restart saw him plummet to the back of the pack.