It’s the common consensus that sportspeople should always try to go out at the top, which is perhaps why Nico Rosberg opted to retire after finally winning the Formula One World Championship.
Because, in doing so the German brought the curtain down on a career in which he not only reached the pinnacle of motorsport but also had the last laugh on rival and one-time friend Lewis Hamilton.
Both born in 1985, Rosberg and Hamilton had first known each other during their karting years as kids, but it wasn’t until 2014 that things started to sour between the pair.
In 2013, Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes, becoming one of Rosberg’s teammates. That year, the relationship’s first strain happened at the Malaysian Grand Prix, when the Mercedes team told Rosberg to hold behind the British star, something that Rosberg didn’t quite like.
But the real controversy would begin in 2014, the year that saw Hamilton win his second World Championship –and the first with Mercedes. It was during the Bahrain GP that Rosberg dared to use engine modes that had been banned by Mercedes, and Hamilton got his ‘personal vendetta’ by using the same modes in the next confrontation, at the Spanish GP. Yet this was only the beginning.
The few remnants of friendship that existed between the pair vanished after the 2014 Monaco GP, when, at the end of Q3, Rosberg made a move that Hamilton later insisted had prevented him from completing a lap that would have given him pole position. It was this incident which prompted the British racer to state that he and Rosberg were not friends.
Anger was soon followed by resentment. In the 2014 Hungarian GP, in which Rosberg arrived leading over Hamilton by 14 points, Mercedes asked the British to cede to his rival on the track, but Hamilton refused to do so.
Hamilton went on to win the World Championship that year, setting Rosberg on a confrontational path in the following season. First, the German accused Hamilton of compromising his race in China –a race in which he came in second after his teammate telling reporters:
“Did Lewis do it on purpose or not? I don’t know, I can’t answer that, but in the press conference he said he was just thinking about himself and that’s an interesting indication and statement. That’s it and I’m frustrated as a result because my race was compromised.”
Then came the infamous incident of the 2015 U.S GP, when Rosberg threw his Mercedes cap at Hamilton while they were both waiting to step on the podium – with Hamilton first and Rosberg second yet again,
It wouldn’t be until 2016, though, when the two drivers would clash – literally – on the track. The first occasion was during the Spanish GP, where Hamilton’s car spun into Rosberg’s, while the second collision took place in Austria.
But now that Rosberg has reached the top of the podium and decided to retire, this short-lived rivalry is over. Does that mean it is finally time for the two men to stop bickering and go back to being the good old days of kart-racing and enjoying themselves? We’ll have to wait and see.