MELBOURNE, March 24 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton’s stunning pole position lap at the Australian Grand Prix had even former Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg marvelling at his old rival’s prowess on Saturday.
“I really think today was a Lewis Hamilton lap. He pulled it out of the bag in an unbelievably special way, nailed it 100 percent,” the retired 2016 world champion told Sky Sports television.
“When he’s in this form, everybody else might as well pack up and go because there’s no-one who’s going to beat him,” the German added.
Hamilton’s pole was his record seventh at Albert Park, and also a Formula One record 73rd of the four-times world champion’s career.
The Briton, a two-times winner in Australia, was a hefty 0.664 seconds faster than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified second, in a lap record time of one minute, 21.164 seconds.
“That looked extremely special. It was great to watch, I have massive respect,” Rosberg said.
“It’s one of those laps where he has again shown why statistically also he’s one of the greatest ever in our sport. It was just very impressive.”
Rosberg is as qualified as any driver to know about that, having raced Hamilton from his early teens before becoming the only team mate to beat the Briton to a Formula One title.
Doing so required such a huge mental and physical effort that the German retired immediately afterwards.
“There’s times when you’re just there and shaking your head, you think ‘how does he do that?’,” Rosberg said, contemplating Hamilton’s lap.
“You’ve just got to pull it out of the bag and try harder and sometimes also accept that there can be bad days.”
Valtteri Bottas, starting his second season as Hamilton’s team mate, discovered that after losing control and crashing into the wall during the final phase of qualifying.
“I really felt for him,” Rosberg said.
“It’s one of those really horrible moments when you’re out there, middle of the track, all the cameras are on you, the car is in bits and pieces, your whole weekend is gone because unless something miraculous happens tomorrow his chances are very, very slim for anything.
“It’s not good for his self confidence. And self confidence is so important for us drivers... you want to start the season in a good way. And to start the season like that is tough.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by John O’Brien)