Nico Rosberg would have ‘suffered’ had he not beaten Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes boss Niki Lauda has said.
Rosberg, who has seen his Mercedes team-mate win successive championships, started his campaign in the best-possible fashion with victory in Melbourne.
It was not a flawless weekend for Rosberg – he crashed in practice, and was considerably slower than Hamilton in qualifying – but he took advantage of a strategical gaffe from Ferrari to make it count on Sunday.
‘He had a poor start in practice because Lewis was driving like always but in the race he turned it around,’ Lauda, the three-time world champion, said.’You need this to have a good start into the season as it gives him confidence.
‘If it would have been the other way round and Lewis had won he would have suffered because he always suffers when Lewis is there.’So, for him this race is important to mentally stay strong and have a good baseline for the next one.’
Both Rosberg and pole-sitter Hamilton endured slow getaways which enabled the fast-starting Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to leapfrog their rivals.
But Vettel was made to rue a strategical error by Ferrari, in which he had to stop one more time than both Rosberg and Hamilton, while Raikkonen retired with an engine problem. It enabled Mercedes, so dominant for the past two seasons, to secure yet another one-two finish.
‘The race was half-decided on the start because Ferrari did an incredible start,’ Lauda added. ‘We screwed up, we have to find out why, and then the race took its way.
‘I am afraid we see more of this because Ferrari is quick and there is no question about it. it is going to be exciting and I look forward to the next one.’
Rosberg’s victory was overshadowed by Fernando Alonso’s spectacular crash in which the Spaniard admitted he was fortunate to survive.
But Lauda, who still bears the scars from his terrifying fireball inferno at the Nurburgring nearly 40 years ago, added: ‘The crashes where you get out and walk away, they don’t really mean anything to you.
‘Thank God nothing happened, but it shows again how strong these cars are. If you look at the car upside down it looked pretty screwed up I have to say.’