By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) – Nico Rosberg can see Lewis Hamilton smashing Michael Schumacher’s records to become Formula One’s most successful driver, and the Briton’s former Mercedes team mate says he feels pretty good about it.
The German is the only man to beat Hamilton over a season in the V6 turbo hybrid era that started in 2014 and the more success Hamilton has, the more lustre it adds to his own achievement.
“It is definitely not a bad thing when I see him (Hamilton) going on to become the best of all-time and beating Schumacher’s records,” the 2016 champion told Reuters at the British Grand Prix on Saturday.
“It makes me think “OK, Nico, you have done quite a good job.”
If Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s current team mate and battered title rival, wants any tips — not that Rosberg feels the Finn needs any help from him — then he can expect plenty of sacrifice and suffering.
Rosberg revealed that he spent up to eight hours a week with a sports psychologist during that 2016 season, undergoing the mental equivalent of boot camp to beat the one man with the same machinery.
“Two hours every second day of mental training. It was a huge process and just gave me so much and that’s one of the big reasons why I ended up being world champion,” said the German, who retired days after winning his title.
Son of 1982 world champion Keke, Rosberg started working with the psychologist in 2007, after a debut season with Williams, but ramped it up significantly for that final campaign.
“I just dedicated my whole every single breathing second of my life to winning that next race and becoming world champion,” he said.
“Lewis drove me to go searching for ways to be better than I ever thought I could be because he’s the best of all time, or going towards the best of all time.
“So of course to beat him you need to rise above everything you have. It’s the only way to win.”
And at the end of the weekend, there is no switching off and forgetting either.
“That is the tough thing about F1. It affects your wife, your mum and dad. It is not like you go home and it is all done,” said Rosberg, happy to have closed that chapter in his life.
“It affects everybody. That is why it is so intense. The suffering and the joy goes all the way to your home. That never stops.”
Hamilton is heading for a sixth championship, one short of Schumacher’s career tally, and has 79 career wins compared to the Ferrari great’s 91.
The Briton already holds the record for pole positions and has won more than half the races since the V6s were introduced in 2014.
Compatriot Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, told reporters he could see Hamilton winning 10 titles before he was done but Rosberg said that would depend on the 34-year-old’s other interests.
“Equalling Schumacher’s record has to be a motivation. He has this historic chance and he realistically knows he can do it. He has the car, he has the team and the regulations are not changing before 2021,” said the German.
“He can equal him next year, in terms of championships, and beat him on race wins and become the best of all time. That has to be hugely motivating. It has to be. It is such an opportunity.”
Rosberg, at Silverstone to promote a behavioural science programme with beer brand Heineken’s ‘When You Drive, Never Drink’ campaign, said Bottas had come back strongly from a poor 2018 season but could not afford to let the momentum slip.
“He’s been struggling as of late, a little bit back to the Valtteri of last year lately, so he always needs to be careful,” he said.
“If there’s too many of these last year Valtteris, then you’re going to be out.
“And Lewis just gets more and more confidence and then he’s off and away again. He needs to try to keep fighting and not allow Lewis to get that self confidence.”
Rosberg said the real Hamilton rarely turned up in practice — “Lewis just can’t really be bothered on Fridays” — but Saturday and Sunday was another story.
“I always used to work so hard on Friday, and do the setup of the car, and then this guy comes and finally commits himself and with his natural talent, very often also taking all the setup work that I’ve done, and just out-qualifying me.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)