2016 world champion Nico Rosberg reckons he had it harder against Lewis Hamilton than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen does.
Having been team-mates in karting, Hamilton joined Rosberg at Mercedes in 2013, but their relationship took a turn for the worse when they started competing for championships.
Between them, they won 51 of the first 59 races of the turbo-hybrid era as Mercedes asserted utter dominance over the rest of the field, but it was the battle for individual glory that led to friction.
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Hamilton won the title in 2014 and 2015, before Rosberg claimed success in 2016, and retired having achieved his life’s ambition.
A series of controversial moments with the now seven-time champion during Rosberg’s time alongside Hamilton was tough, not just on the drivers, but on the wider team too.
“The whole team had to maintain a neutral attitude between Lewis and I,” Rosberg said in conversation La Gazzetta Dello Sport.
“There was a strange atmosphere within the team because it was clear that there was rivalry within our own garage.
“As a result, there was a spirit within the team without balance – and that made it difficult to get closer together.
“I was in isolation at the most important point of my career.”
Verstappen beat Hamilton to the title after a tumultuous rivalry between the pair in 2021, and the finale in Abu Dhabi was symbolic of a year that contained a lot of needle between Mercedes and Red Bull.
Rosberg reasons that the young Dutchman’s position at the Milton Keynes-based side makes going up against Hamilton a simpler task.
“It should be easier for Verstappen, because he is seen as the number one driver by everyone. There is a calmer atmosphere at Red Bull,” he added.
Having watched Verstappen emphatically defend his title this year, Rosberg sees a “complete” driver in the 25-year-old.
“He has the fighting mentality just like Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna and he doesn’t make mistakes anymore,” he elucidated.
“No teammate has been able to keep up with him and we are talking about Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez, who are not exactly bad drivers.
“Verstappen has blown my mind this year. He [had] a bad start to the season and Ferrari was superior at the time. He then went on to have a historic season with a [record-breaking] total of 15 victories, with relatively few pole positions, often winning by moving forward.
“He will always be among the best five drivers. Certainly, he has won two world titles at the age of 25, and has already won more races than Fernando Alonso. He has enormous talent and is now complete.”
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