Nico Rosberg praises Lewis Hamilton after stunning pole
World champion Nico Rosberg has heralded the “immense” Lewis Hamilton as one of the best of all-time after his former team-mate and title rival took a 71st career pole, and his first at the Japanese GP.
Rosberg made his Sky Sports F1 debut as a pundit less than a year after retiring from the sport as a title-winner, and witnessed Hamilton’s dominant display first hand as the championship leader smashed the previous Suzuka track record.
And Rosberg, who partnered and battled Hamilton for four years at Mercedes, praised the Briton’s display after analysing the pole lap on his return to the F1 paddock.
“He’s one of the best of all-time in qualifying so it’s always going to be difficult to beat him,” Rosberg, a three-time pole-sitter in Japan, said. “His natural speed is just immense.”
Hamilton was four tenths of a second faster than Sebastian Vettel in Q3 as the Ferrari finished in third, though the four-time world champion will start the race on the front row thanks to Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalties.
But, already holding a 34-point advantage over Vettel, a maiden Suzuka pole has allowed Hamilton to strengthen his grip on the Drivers’ Championship as he approaches the final five races of 2017.
“The run after the summer was really important for me and Lewis has that run at the moment,” Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the title by five points in 2016, explained. “He has the momentum completely on his side and it’s totally against Sebastian at the moment.
“Everything is going wrong there, and he doesn’t have the car performance here either – he’s really struggling with the Ferrari.”
However, with overtaking opportunities sparse at the iconic track, Rosberg believes Ferrari can still challenge Mercedes with a good start in the race – which he will again be commenting on with Sky F1.
“Sebastian is starting from second and all it takes is a good start – he can win the race.
“For anybody to beat Lewis you have to take advantage of the opportunities you get. That’s what I was trying to do last year and it worked quite well and that’s what Sebastian has to do this year.”