Hamilton “phenomenal” in 'grey area' combat – Rosberg

Nico Rosberg has hailed Lewis Hamilton for his “phenomenal” skills in going wheel-to-wheel in Formula 1.

Rosberg and Hamilton spent four seasons together as team-mates at Mercedes before the former bowed out of F1 after winning the title in 2016.

During that period of time, however, there were numerous on-track battles, with Rosberg often emerging second best due to Hamilton’s ability to position his car in such a way that made it difficult for the German driver to come out ahead.

“The guy is phenomenal in a wheel-to-wheel battle,” said Rosberg, during a light-hearted conversation with David Coulthard on Formula1.com.

“It’s unbelievable how he positions the car so smartly. Whenever I would go up against him, hold my own and fight back, he would always manage to stay in the grey area.

“But whenever I would try, I would straight away jump over the grey area and into the black area, which is not allowed.

“He would be so skilled at keeping it in the grey area, and never really making it 100% his fault. That was a huge strength of his, one of the huge strengths he has of the many.”

Rosberg and Hamilton started at Mercedes as friends due to the history between the duo stretching back to their karting days.

But over time their relationship grew more fractious as the team became more successful, leading to several explosive clashes, notably their high-profile crash in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

Rosberg, who now considers himself to be a “sustainability entrepreneur” as he is involved in projects to support the preservation of the environment, added: “I knew how good Lewis was because I raced him in go-karts for many years, and I knew that he was extra special.

“With Lewis coming in, there wasn’t any negativity in my mind. I was looking forward to the challenge because he was a world champion, and by the time he arrived I had won just one single Formula 1 race, and here was the great Lewis Hamilton coming into the team, so again it was very uneven in terms of statistical results in the past.

“But I relished that. I took it on, and I had learned a lot by then. Straight away, from the get-go, I was able to play level field with Lewis all the way through.

“In 2013, it was still pretty much easy-going because we weren’t fighting for race wins, and we used to be best friends, so that was a decent start.

“But then going into 2014, that’s where you noticed because once you are fighting for race wins and championships, there is so much at stake. Your dream is at stake.

“Both of us dreamed of winning the world championship with Mercedes. It’s so big. It’s hard to make compromises, and it’s the friendship that gets compromised, in return for winning races.

“It just went small step by small step, and it just builds up. It was tough.”

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