Nico Rosberg’s warning to George Russell as Lewis Hamilton rivalry ‘heats up’

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton loses a wheel in lap 1 crash..

Lewis Hamilton crashed into George Russell in Qatar.

Nico Rosberg has warned George Russell against being the “nice guy” as his rivalry with Lewis Hamilton heats up following back-to-back incidents in Japan and Qatar.

Nearing the end of a season in which the Mercedes team-mates have had a few niggles and near-misses, tension rose at the Japanese Grand Prix where the team-mates went wheel-to-wheel.

The first action between the team-mates was clean, Russell passing Hamilton and Hamilton passing him right back, but the second wasn’t with Hamilton running wide through Spoon and forcing Russell even further off the track.

Nico Rosberg has urged George Russell not to be the ‘nice guy’

That Russell was later ordered to move over for Hamilton as Carlos Sainz hunted down the team-mates only added insult to injury for the former Williams driver. Russell was then denied DRS assistance to stave off Sainz’s attack, Hamilton saying it was “not a good idea at all”.

But while the team-mates did avoid contact in Japan, the same cannot be said for Qatar.

Lining up second and third on the grid with Russell ahead but Hamilton on the faster soft tyres, the latter tried to pass Russell around the outside at Turn 1 only to turn in on him and crash.

Hamilton’s race ended in the gravel with the Briton’s W14 short a wheel. Russell, meanwhile, had to pit for repairs and yelled “what the hell, two races in a row” over his team-mate’s antics.

Mercedes downplayed the growing rivalry, speaking of “lions”, not “puppy dogs”.

Being a lion against Hamilton is exactly what former Mercedes driver Rosberg has urged Russell to do.

“Things have been heating up there because also in Suzuka it was well over the limit on one occasion when they both took each other off the track,” the 2016 World Champion told the Sky F1 podcast.

“It’s a very difficult situation for George as well. Unfortunately, you can’t just be the nice guy in that situation – you have to also internally keep the pressure on.

“You have to make it difficult for the team, unfortunately. It sucks, but otherwise, the team will always just take the easiest route.

“So it’s very uncomfortable because George needs to be pushing – which he does on the radio, you hear him saying things like ‘again’ and things like that. So he’s really trying to hold against it.”

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Hamilton later apologised to Russell for the collision, the seven-time World Champion taking “full responsibility” for the first-lap crash.

That, Rosberg says, was a “win” for Russell.

“It was a good one in Qatar for George because Lewis actually admitted [he was wrong],” Rosberg continued.

“So that was a big win for George in that sense, also internally, which is very rare because in my time Lewis never had 100 percent fault, so he never actually had to admit in that way.

“So it’s very, very rare for Lewis to be at 100 percent fault at that, it usually never happens.

“It’s to be watched. It’s an interesting battle and dynamic opening out there.”

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