Nico Rosberg says the deterioration of his relationship with Lewis Hamilton was a “build-up” over time, rather than one flashpoint in their numerous on-track battles at the start of the turbo hybrid era.
The once-friendly relationship between the two descended into animosity when they were driving dominant Mercedes machinery from 2014 onwards, with the two drivers in an exclusive battle with each other for three consecutive seasons.
There were several on-track tussles and collisions between the pair during that time, including a first-lap crash in Barcelona that took both drivers out, along with tagging wheels on multiple occasions and an increasingly fractious atmosphere between them in private and public.
Rosberg and Hamilton fought to the last in Abu Dhabi in 2016, the German eventually coming out on top under pressure to win the title before promptly retiring from Formula 1.
While the relationship between the two former team-mates has eased somewhat over time, Rosberg explained their tension was partly a by-product of being locked together at the front for so long.
“It happened immediately when we were fighting for the World Championship, not before,” the 2016 World Champion told Eurosport.de when asked when his and Hamilton’s rapport had begun to sour.
“But that’s always the case – when you’re fighting for success in every race and for titles, it doesn’t work anymore.
“No, it was a build-up from one race to the next,” he added when asked if one particular moment had changed things between the two. “If you want to decide the World Championship for yourself, you can’t play ‘peace, joy, pancake’.
“You have to test limits and go into grey areas to win. Especially when two drivers are at such a high level. And then it often gets tight.”
Rosberg said in May he and Hamilton had a chance encounter in a lift at their apartment complex in Monaco, and Hamilton had reminisced in a previous interview about how memories made with Rosberg’s family as a teenager had helped to shape his image of Monaco as a place.
When it comes to their current standing, Rosberg said he holds no regrets over what happened in that time and pointed out the two are going head-to-head again in another series – albeit as team owners.
“I don’t regret anything,” he said. “That was a sensational time and a mega fight. I’m very proud of that. In the meantime, we’ve returned to neutral, which is okay. And the funny thing is we are fighting each other again in Extreme E.”