‘It even got a bit political’: Bottas reflects on Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry

Nico Rosberg retired from Formula 1 after winning his first and only word title in 2016.

New Alfa Romeo signing Valtteri Bottas says he was initially surprised at Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire in 2016, but now appreciates his reasons for doing so.

Rosberg spent four years partnering Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes after a three-year spell alongside another seven-time world champion – Michael Schumacher.

Three of those seasons featured successive painstaking championship battles at the beginning of the hybrid era, with the Briton winning in 2014 and 2015.

READ: Valtteri Bottas was ‘selfish’ when deciding to leave Mercedes

In 2016, the German claimed nine race wins en route to his maiden world championship, sealing the deal at the end of an enthralling season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in which Hamilton attempted to back his team-mate into Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen as he sought a sufficient points advantage to clinch what would have been his fourth F1 crown.

Several days after his emotional success, the 36-year-old retired, insisting that he had now achieved everything he wanted to in the sport.

Perry McCarthy recently told Formula1News.co.uk that it takes an unimaginable amount of effort to win a world title, and suggested that Rosberg simply would have had nothing left to defend his championship in 2017.

Hamilton and Rosberg had been good friends before their incrementally bitter championship battles, and Bottas recognises just how personal and toxic the attrition became.

“Back then, there were two drivers who fought really hard against each other. It even got a bit political,” he told the Supla podcast.

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Rosberg had been signed to Mercedes from Williams at the start of their revival in 2010, and the Brackley-based team also picked Bottas – his replacement – out of Williams.

The Finn would then spend five years at the serial constructors’ champions, winning 10 of his 101 races with them.

However, Hamilton won 50 grand prix in that time, and claimed the championship in four of the five seasons he partnered Bottas.

He also out-qualified the 32-year-old 72 times in 100 races, arguably making him look worse than he is.

The Finn was thus often forced into a support role for his older team-mate, which was emphasised at the 2018 Russian Grand Prix in which Bottas had to give the win to the Briton.

Now that he has experienced first-hand the sheer strain of competing with a driver of Hamilton’s quality, he understands why his predecessor felt that he had to retire.

READ: ‘I do feel that as disrespect’: Rosberg jovially responds to Hamilton best team-mate comment

“When I came to Mercedes, I wondered why Nico was quitting. But now I can identify with him. I can say from experience that it’s not easy.”

Bottas will partner rookie Guanyu Zhou at Alfa Romeo next season, and has been succeeded at Mercedes by former Williams driver George Russell after helping the team to five of their record eight-straight Constructors’ Championships.

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