Rosberg: Hamilton’s skill lies in ‘always staying in the grey area’

2020 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton’s understanding of the rules of racing is a part of what makes him such a tough rival to beat, according to his former team mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton and Rosberg were team mates at Mercedes for four years and also raced together in their junior careers. Rosberg, who retired from F1 after beating Hamilton to the 2016 title, said his former team mate “is phenomenal in a wheel-to-wheel battle” because he understands how far he can push the rules.

“It’s just unbelievable how he positions the car so smartly,” Rosberg told the official F1 website. “Whenever I would try to go up against him and hold my own and fight back he would always manage to stay in the grey area.

“Whenever I would try, sometimes I would just straightaway jump over the grey area into the black area, which is not allowed. He would just be so skilled at keeping it in the grey area, never really making it 100 percent his fault, that was a huge strength of his, these wheel-to-wheel battles. One of those huge strengths that he has of many.”

Mercedes’ technical director James Allison recently praised Hamilton’s race craft, saying he has an “utterly unblemished record” which is “unprecedented” among multiple world champions. Rosberg and Hamilton had several encounters on track, some of which ended in collisions, as they fought each other for the world championship between 2014 and 2016.

Hamilton replaced Michael Schumacher at the team in 2013. Rosberg said his experience of sharing a team with the seven-times world champion gave him the confidence to take Hamilton on.

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“I was like, OK, done, I’ve conquered the most difficult guy out there. And then they say Lewis Hamilton is incoming. And I knew how good Lewis was because I raced him in go-karts for many years and I knew that he was extra-special.

Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2009
Analysis: Is Hamilton’s driving as spotless as Allison claims?
“With Lewis coming, actually, it wasn’t any negativity in my mind. I was looking forward to this challenge. He was [a] world champion and remember that by the time Lewis arrived I had just won one single Formula 1 race. And here was the great Lewis Hamilton coming into the team. So it was very, very uneven in terms of statistical results in the past.

“But I relished that and I took it on. And I had learnt a lot by then. So I was really able straight away actually from the get-go I was really able to be playing level field with Lewis all the way through.”

Rosberg said the intensity of their rivalry took a toll on what had been a close friendship.

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

“But then going into 2014, that’s when you noticed then because once you’re fighting for race wins and for championships, there’s so much at stake. Your dream is at stake. Both of us dreamed of winning the world championship with Mercedes. It’s so big.

“So then you just start 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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 28 comments on “Rosberg: Hamilton’s skill lies in ‘always staying in the grey area’”

    1. Whenever I would try, sometimes I would just straightaway jump over the grey area into the black area, which is not allowed. He would just be so skilled at keeping it in the grey area, never really making it 100 percent his fault, that was a huge strength of his, these wheel-to-wheel battles. One of those huge strengths that he has of many.

      I think this is the hallmark of the very best. To be able to race at 10 10ths and not make contact, not force the other car of the track. When it comes to open wheeler racing that’s what I like to see it’s the ultimate skill to be able to drive at those speeds just millimetres from another car and do it lap after lap after lap. And yes that’s what the greatest drivers could and would do.
      This is a quote from Bruno Giacomelli about Verstappen.

      It means that Verstappen would have died at least three or four times if he had driven the cars of the 80’s I was driving

      I have posted previously about Verstappen driving style being exciting a nearly win at any cost attitude as opposed to say Ricciardo who thinks a lot more before he makes a move. It is good to see Verstappen has toned a down a bit he is just as fast but not as reckless.

      1. Why is this a reply about Verstappen? He has never been mentioned in the article….

        1. tony mansell
          11th May 2020, 10:45

          He said already. He’s got a drum and he is going to bang it.

          1. ;)

      2. I think this is the hallmark of the very best. To be able to race at 10 10ths and not make contact, not force the other car of the track

        You misunderstand being able to drive the car at ten tenths and being right at the edge or limit of the rules. The clearest indication of being right at the edge of the rules or slightly over is how often the incidents are unclear or debatable. In other words not black or white but grey. Drivers like hamilton and even alonso and verstappen can make it look debatable. Did hamilton brake check vettel or did he just lift off little bit at low gear which achieved the same as touching the brakes? Not really. But slowing down (yes his speed slowed) in a corner exit where everybody else are expecting you to accelerate is perfect example of grey behaviour. A bit like faking a cough at children’s cancer clinic. Were verstappen’s late defensive moves dangerous blocking? Alonso singapore, alonso spygate, hamilton spygate etc… We all know vettel hit hamilton 100% on purpose but did he hit webber on purpose as well? We know schumi hit several drivers but was his move on hakkinen in spa before the famous overtake legal? Difference of grey vs black-white. Much harder to find a lot of those grey incidents with drivers like hakkinen, raikkonen, button…

    2. Post the link to whole video from youtube.

      1. The link is in the article and was there when it was published.

        1. I meant embed the video(if it is allowed by F1) in the article. I watched it yesterday night and it is very interesting.

    3. G (@unklegsif)
      11th May 2020, 11:03

      Says the bloke that it at Mirabeau to prevent a LH pole

      1. Get over it.

      2. @unklegsif

        “Whenever I would try, sometimes I would just straightaway jump over the grey area into the black area,

        something like this? Though I get your point (that was your point, right?) that since that wasn’t punished, it was still in the grey. But probably politically a bit too far in the end.

    4. I’d rather say it’s the lack of understanding of the rules by the stewards that benefits Lewis in multiple cases.
      The 2018 and 2019 German GP should have been a drive through penalty for incorrectly entering and not entering the pitlane, for one and that weren’t the only times.

      1. So you are saying that the rules state it must be a drive through, and all other drivers who have fallen foul of that rule received a drive through?

    5. “Rosberg: Hamilton’s skill lies in ‘always staying in the grey area’” – like reversing back onto the track in Q3 at Monaco to stop anyone beating your time? Ring any bells, Nico?

      1. Get over it lol

      2. Or using quali engine modes during a race…

    6. This skill is one that Vettel is poor at. Or doesn’t have at all!

    7. I don’t really understand the shots at Rosberg here (@unklegsif @gnosticbrian). He already admits that he wasn’t great at keeping it in that middle area and that he went too far at times. Take the win already.

      1. Must be their instinctive counterattack mode whenever their hero is mentioned, @hobo.

        1. G (@unklegsif)
          12th May 2020, 12:44

          @coldfly I have no hero’s… you shouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions and onto your keyboard

          G

          1. I have no hero’s [sic]

            Well G, you fooled me!
            Do you know why you (still) get so easily upset about Rosberg?

            1. G (@unklegsif)
              13th May 2020, 6:14

              You ARE very clever to be able to tell whether I am upset or not @coldfly… I mean, there you are, at the other end of the Internet…
              #facepalm

    8. At the end of the day, being on the grey means not being on the black. And that’s the whole point of the rules: not doing something that is forbidden.

      I don’t think it’s a “skill” to always be in the grey area, it’s the understanding that what you’re doing is not wrong. Whenever you should’ve done it anyway is another matter.

    9. I guess this is about as close Rosberg will get to admitting he was a dirty driver.

      1. Oh puhlease.

    10. Great observation, and it’s actually a great compliment to make to an F1 driver. I frankly didn’t understand why people make cynical comments about Rosberg here.

    11. I think its quite honest of rosberg to say that. Im impressed. And i agree woth him. In any sport an athlete will push the limits to the very edge but not actually break the rule. Or try not to at the least. This is the grey area. A mark of a great athlete.

    12. Rosberg Stockholm syndrome has gone from embarrassing to painful to watch..

    Comments are closed.