Nico Rosberg says George Russell’s “phenomenal” form will provide ultra motivation for Lewis Hamilton because the seven-time world champion “hates” losing to a team-mate.
Hamilton, 37, claimed his first podium in almost three months when he finished third at Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix – one place ahead of Russell in the other Mercedes.
But Russell, in his first season alongside Hamilton, is 34 points ahead of his more illustrious team-mate in the standings.
The result in Montreal on Sunday brought an end to a run of eight races – including Imola’s sprint round – where Hamilton has taken the chequered flag behind his compatriot.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Any Driven Monday programme, Rosberg, who defied Hamilton to win the 2016 world title before retiring a handful of days later, said: “Make no mistake, Lewis hates passionately to ever come second to a team-mate.
“He will be ultra motivated and pushing very hard internally.
“Lewis is still driving at his best. He has just had an unbelievably unlucky season so far and different things have gone against him.
“Canada was the first weekend in a while that was normal for him and he delivered in the usual awesome way.”
Russell, 24, is the only driver to finish in the top five at each of the nine Grands Prix so far.
In Montreal’s rain-hit qualifying, he took the bold decision to strap on a set of slicks in a banzai move for pole position before spinning off at the first corner.
Former Mercedes driver Rosberg, 36, continued: “What an awesome job George has done this year – it is phenomenal.
“With that car and how difficult it is to drive, to be so consistent, driving so well, not making any mistakes and always getting the maximum out of it, is really brilliant.
“Even on Saturday, one would think, keep it safe and qualify fourth or fifth.
“But he said, ‘no, I am going for gold and I am going to be the only driver out there to put slicks on, and I only care about pole position’, and that is really awesome.
“The driver pairing at Mercedes is incredible, so strong, and it will be nice to watch how it continues to unfold.”
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