Rosberg: Mistakes forbidden for ‘absolute’ title favourite Verstappen
Nico Rosberg says Max Verstappen is now the “absolute favourite” to win the 2021 title, but the Red Bull driver’s new status comes with big pressure and an imperative to avoid mistakes.
Verstappen has yet to lead the F1 world championship, the Dutchman currently sitting second just one point behind arch-rival Lewis Hamilton after two rounds that resulted in a win for each contender.
Rosberg believes that Red Bull’s all-round superior car coupled with Verstappen’s phenomenal talent have finally positioned the 23-year-old as the outright favourite while Hamilton assumes the role of the challenger.
But Rosberg insists that denying the latter an eighth title at the end of the season will require zero tolerance for mistakes on the part of Verstappen.
“Last year Verstappen only had a car he could occasionally win with, this year he is the favourite and that changes a lot,” the 2016 F1 world champion told Sky Sports Italia.
“It gives 10 times more pressure. It has all changed because they have a good car now, you can’t make mistakes anymore.
“You also have to think long term and take points every time, because he is the absolute favourite. From that role, you now also get the battle with Hamilton both on and off the track and that is incredibly beautiful to follow.
“Because Max is the favourite now, every time Hamilton is ahead of him in the championship it means Max has done something wrong and the pressure is on him.
“You can also see how Hamilton mentally wants to push him into that role of favourite by saying Verstappen has the best car and Verstappen does vice versa.”
Read also: Hamilton didn’t expect to be on the front row
Rosberg reckons the fierce tussle that opposed the two drivers at the start of the Emilia Romagna GP, where Verstappen muscled his way past the Mercedes driver at the first corner, has left its mark on Hamilton.
“Verstappen pushed Hamilton aside very brutally during the race at Imola and that is a moment Lewis will remember throughout the season,” said the German who enjoyed more than his fair share of wheel-to-wheel battles with the seven-time world champion.
“He didn’t say anything on the radio but, believe me, Lewis saved that moment because it was a brutal action by Verstappen, so that is also a sign for Hamilton to know that there is a tough battle going on.
“For the fans, of course, it is nice to see this fight.”
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