Nico Rosberg thinks George Russell needs to stand up to Lewis Hamilton on track when the Mercedes duo inevitably find themselves battling each other.
So far in Mercedes’ disappointing start to the season, their drivers have not fought each other for position during a race. The closest they have been was at the opener in Bahrain where Hamilton finished third, a couple of seconds ahead of Russell who did not challenge his team-mate.
In the subsequent three grands prix, Russell has finished ahead and on two of those occasions had plenty of time and positions in hand of the seven-time former World Champion.
However, Rosberg, who partnered Hamilton for four feisty campaigns that culminated with his sole Drivers’ title success before retiring in 2016, believes it is only a matter of time before the British duo are fighting for supremacy on track.
And when that happens, it will be the moment, says the German, for Russell to show he will not be pushed around.
“Especially against someone as great as Lewis it’s important for George to not show he’s just a walkover, to get the elbows out in a measured way right from the get-go and show Lewis ‘you need to respect me as well’,” Rosberg told Sky F1.
“That’s a very important sign for George to get going right at the beginning in this relationship because it sets a precedent and it’s such a fine line how far you push that.
“It will be good to see how George manages that in the next couple of races, especially against Lewis once they start going wheel-to-wheel at some point.”
Although there were high hopes for Russell at Mercedes when he joined the team this year in place of Valtteri Bottas, it will have come as a surprise to many that he has already built up a 21-point lead over Hamilton in the World Championship standings.
Being 13 years younger than his colleague, Russell is viewed as the future number one driver at Mercedes provided he lives up to his potential – and Rosberg is certainly seeing early signs of that.
“It is so important for George to be very close to Lewis, to beat him as much as possible, because it will really dictate how the rest of his career will go if Mercedes keep him on and things like that,” said Rosberg.
“At Imola he was like four tenths quicker than Lewis all weekend and ahead of him all weekend, which was really an awesome job by George and the first time we really saw this potential World Championship level of driving from him.”
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