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Nico Rosberg: George Russell is Lewis Hamilton's 'ultimate test' at Mercedes

Nico Rosberg believes that Lewis Hamilton will come back with "a bang" despite strong competition from his team-mate George Russell;watch the Australian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 between March 31 and April 2

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Lewis Hamilton and George Russell acknowledged Red Bull are the clear frontrunners after the Mercedes pair finished fifth and third respectively in Saudi Arabia.

Sky Sports F1's Nico Rosberg believes that George Russell is Lewis Hamilton's "ultimate test" on his quest for an eighth drivers' championship.

After two races of the 2023 Formula 1 season, Hamilton is two points ahead of Russell, but Russell beat the seven-time world champion in the standings in 2022 in his maiden season with Mercedes.

Rosberg infamously beat Hamilton to the title as his rival and Mercedes team-mate in 2016, but believes as a "future world champion", 25-year old Russell will be a challenge for the 38-year old driver in the latter stages of his career.

"Testament to the weekend George has done. Interesting that there is different set ups, but free choice for both of them," said Rosberg.

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Sky F1's Ted Kravitz explains the procedure which saw Fernando Alonso reinstated to the podium after having been demoted initially, while Lewis Hamilton has described Max Verstappen's Red Bull as the fastest he's seen during his time in the sport.

"For Lewis, it was a nice comeback today and it gives him some comfort after a dark day yesterday (Saturday).

"George is the ultimate test, he is a future world champion. It is difficult for Lewis to stay in front.

"George had an awesome season last year and that is continuing."

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Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Robserg: 2016

Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg
Championship position 2nd 1st
Race wins 10 9
Pole positions 12 8
Fastest laps 3 6
Points 380 385

Despite Russell's impressive start to life at Mercedes, Rosberg knows more than most that it would be silly for him to count out his team-mate and the "best of all time" for good.

Following Rosberg's win in 2016 and shock retirement, Hamilton went onto dominate for four more years, taking the championship in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 before losing out in dramatic circumstances in 2021.

Indeed, while Hamilton may not currently be where he would like, Rosberg is convinced he will bounce back.

Lewis Hamilton vs George Russell: 2022

Lewis Hamilton George Russell
Championship posiion 6th 4th
Race wins 0 1
Pole positions 0 2
Fastest laps 2 5
Points 240 275

"Let's not forget, Lewis is the best of all time, so if someone can beat George it is him," he added.

"It is a little bit of a weakness that Lewis has that he will mentally go into this down a little bit and lose a little bit of the flow but he comes back with a bang every single time so, dear George, don't get too confident there."

Hamilton: Set up choice worked out better for Russell

Despite some difficulties at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, Hamilton suggested his deficit in Saudi Arabia was caused by a "50/50" set up choice that went against him, rather than any fundamental speed differences between himself and Russell.

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Highlights of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

"We got some great points for the team, George got third and he did amazing," said Hamilton.

"I went forwards so I'm really grateful to have come from seventh to fifth.

"The strategy didn't really work out for me, the set up was a little bit off - if I had the set up George had, I would have been in a better position.

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Max Verstappen breezes past Lewis Hamilton to take P8 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

"But yeah, lots to work on but there are positives to take away from it.

"On set up, there was a 50/50 choice, I chose one way and he chose the other, and more often than not, the way he went was the wrong one but it just happened to work.

"I could only match his pace rather than be quicker this weekend but I'll work hard to make sure we're in a better position next weekend."

Watch the Australian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 between March 31 and April 2. Get Sky Sports

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