2016 world champion Nico Rosberg has regrets over his relationship with Sir Lewis Hamilton during their time together at Mercedes, conceding that their disputes served as a detriment to the team.
Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 and, together with his good friend Rosberg having karted with him when they were children, they managed nine podiums along with three race wins.
They impressively beat Ferrari to second in the Constructors’ Championship behind the dominant Red Bull, and then came the turn of the hybrid era.
Mercedes nailed the new regulations, making the most powerful turbo-charged V6 power unit as well as the most efficient chassis, and Hamilton and Rosberg took out 16 of 19 possible race wins that season.
Car issues in Canada and Hungary, as well as a wet race in Budapest, prevented them from making it 18 as Daniel Ricciardo won three for Red Bull, and the third race at the Belgian Grand Prix was lost by the Silver Arrows when their drivers came together on the second lap of the race, ultimately putting the Briton out of proceedings.
An astonished Hamilton said “I don’t know why he hit me” after the race, and it was from there that the relationship between the two drivers, following a tense Monaco Grand Prix a few months prior, became completely untenable.
The pair shared an awkward relationship for the remainder of the season as Hamilton eventually claimed the title in the final round of the year in Abu Dhabi, before the famous cap-throwing incident occurred in 2015, and the crash at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix did little to ease the tension.
During the 2016 season, Hamilton said it was “impossible” to have a relationship with the now 36-year-old, but the German retired at the end of his championship-winning year, and has since stated his intent to get back on speaking terms with the seven-time champion.
A former Mercedes strategist detailed the petulance of the partnership, saying that “avoided coming to the factory on the same day if at all possible,” and Rosberg admits they could have handled the situation better.
“We made it extremely difficult,” he said.
“It went to the point that we had a code of conduct, a paper, what we were allowed to do in a wheel-to-wheel battle, even penalties with a lot of zeros on them attached to that because there was no other way. It just got too heated and too extreme.”
The 23-time race winner sees the silver lining in that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff can draw from his experience managing Hamilton’s relationship with George Russell which, so far, has looked an amicable one.
“I think Toto has learned so much from the fight Lewis and I had and managing us. That’s helping him a lot now in managing George [Russell} coming into the team because it’s very difficult,” he added.
“You don’t want to cut his wings completely but you want to tell him ‘don’t crash into Lewis’, so it’s a very fine line. But I think Toto is getting that right brilliantly at the moment.”
Mercedes have made a dire start to the 2022 season as a legacy of the new technical regulations introduced ahead of this year, with a third-placed finish a piece for Hamilton and Russell being their best result in the opening four rounds.
Rosberg has previously commented on Wolff’s leadership of the team during times of adversity, affirming that the Austrian is the “right guy” to guide the Silver Arrows through it.