Former world champion Nico Rosberg has warned Lewis Hamilton’s title rivals that they will need to produce flawless seasons in order to prevent the Briton winning a fifth Formula One crown this year.
Rosberg pipped his then-Mercedes team-mate to the title in 2016 but, following the German’s sudden retirement, Hamilton reasserted his dominance with a fourth drivers’ championship last term.
The Englishman is favourite to prevail again when the new season begins in Australia on Sunday, and Rosberg believes the likes of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen of Red Bull face an uphill battle.
“When Lewis has his good weekends he is almost unbeatable. He is unbelievably fast and maybe the best guy out there,” said Rosberg, now a pundit for Sky Sports’ F1 coverage.
“The only way to beat Lewis is to be 100 per cent with everything, do the perfect season. Otherwise there is no chance.”
Hamilton trailed Vettel by 14 points before last year’s mid-season break but rallied to win the title by 46 points.
“The weakness Lewis has is a bit of inconsistency. He has these periods when he is just not on it,” added Rosberg.
“If you are able to pounce in those periods and really make the most of it, you can keep him down for a while longer. Sebastian did that pretty well last year.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, meanwhile, is predicting a three-way tussle for supremacy between his outfit, Ferrari and Red Bull.
The reigning constructors’ champions are targeting a fifth title in a row, but Wolff played down their chances.
“A new season feels like climbing Mount Everest,” he said. “We have done it successfully in the past, but we’re only in the base camp at the moment.”