Nico Rosberg opens up on title win and Lewis Hamilton relationship
F1's new world champion spoke to Sky Sports News HQ the day before announcing his F1 retirement
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 02/12/16 6:36pm
Nico Rosberg opened up on the secrets of his title-winning season and the difficulties of his relationship with Lewis Hamilton in a revealing interview with Sky Sports.
In an exclusive chat with Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater at Mercedes' Brackley factory the day before his bombshell announcement he was quitting F1, Rosberg discussed a wide-ranging of topics, including:
- Why he and Hamilton could not be friends while team-mates
- How Austin 2015 was his turning point
- How he hopes Mercedes can draw a line under Hamilton's backing-up tactics
- The highlights of his season
However, in what has turned out to be a telling aside, he declined to discuss anything related to what had been expected to be his title defence in 2017.
"You can't be friends"
The relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton, teenage friends turned F1 team-mates and title rivals at Mercedes, has dominated the narrative of the last three seasons.
Despite employing controversial 'backing-up' tactics in last Sunday's Abu Dhabi GP in a last-ditch attempt to retain his title, Hamilton congratulated Rosberg on the German's maiden title success with the pair since exchanging messages on Twitter reminiscing about their time as karting team-mates.
However, despite the fact they are both now F1 champions, Rosberg admits they could not be as close as they once were.
"We were best friends 15 years ago and, for sure, I still have that base respect, even if it has difficult moments," he told SSNHQ.
"And the environment means you can't be friends. We're just fierce rivals and fighting it out there for the championship all the time, you can't be friends. As long as one guy doesn't accept 'ok, you're better, I'll be second' you can't be friends - it's just difficult."
Having come up short to Hamilton in their title duels in first karting and then in the previous two seasons at Mercedes, Rosberg says he takes extra satisfaction from finally finishing ahead of the Briton.
"The fact it was Lewis I took the title from is extra sweet as well because to me it feels that I've been racing him all my life and all my life he's just edged me out for the titles," added Rosberg.
Rosberg: The best-ever Hamilton in final races
Hamilton's last-ditch tactics in the title decider have split opinion, with Mercedes' management still to decide whether they need to impose any disciplinary measures on the triple champion ahead of next season.
Rosberg says he understood his team-mate's actions and suggested the furore over them had been "overblown"
"It's not for me to make any such decisions or to even get into any discussions like that," he insisted.
"I just find the discussion a bit overblown because you can understand all the sides. It would be good if one could somehow move on.
The turning point
Having taken Hamilton down to the wire in in the fight for the 2014 title, Rosberg's 2015 challenge was more intermittent and he ultimately gifted his team-mate the crown with three rounds to spare with an error while leading the race at the US GP in Austin.
Rosberg rebounded from that disappointed with a hat-trick of wins to close out the 2015 campaign before taking the sequence to seven at the start of this year, laying the foundations for his eventual title success.
"It's the tough moments and the losses which we need to try and use and grow stronger and come back, push and reap motivation and more determination," said Rosberg.
"That worked for me because losing two times to Lewis was very painful. The first one  was in the last race although most of the season I was leading. Then the second year the way I lost it was not nice because I was leading, made a mistake, he got past and then your loved Capgate.
"That was not nice at all and was very, very tough again. Then I spent two days nearly alone in the hotel room thinking and came to the conclusion I really don't want to experience that again and I'm going to give it everything I can and not leave a stone unturned to try and avoid a situation like that again. And here I am now - so that was the beginning."
Singapore: The sweetest victory
The new world champion's nine victories represented his best-ever tally from a single season and he rates the Singapore GP weekend in September as his standout performance of the year.
"Suzuka was crucial for the championship, but Singapore was my highlight weekend," said Rosberg.
"It was my best weekend ever I think in terms of performance and then in terms of pressure management in the end because Red Bull had us over with a great strategy move and Ricciardo was hunting me down.
"My engineer said 'he is going to catch you with two laps to go and with such a speed difference it's going to be difficult to keep him behind'. So the pressure was on massively. To lose a win that was nearly guaranteed at some points in time, because I wasn't going to give it away, that was a very sweet victory."
After a whirlwind week of team and media engagements in Kuala Lumpur, Stuttgart and the UK, Rosberg heads to Vienna on Friday night to officially be crowned world champion and collect the Drivers' Championship trophy.
He had a sneak peek at the prize at Mercedes' Brackley base on Wednesday and revealed: "The first thing I did really was to look where my dad [1982 champion Keke] is.
"That's really something very special to me that we both achieved the same thing and that we both have our name on this special trophy. That's so cool."