Monaco, Monaco, Dec 15 – Nico Rosberg says that he lost the world title “three times in my head” in the season-defining race in Abu Dhabi, calling Lewis Hamilton’s desperate attempts to wreck his dream smart driving.
The German won his first world championship and then shocked Formula One earlier this month when he retired out of the blue at the age of just 31.
His Mercedes team-mate and title rival Hamilton went into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi with a slim chance of retaining his crown and went on to win the race.
That was not enough though to deny Rosberg, who admits that he was devoured by self-doubt as the race unfolded.
As it transpired, the German’s second place was enough to seal his maiden championship triumph.
“In Abu Dhabi I lost the title three times in my head,” said Rosberg on Wednesday as he was made a member for life of the Automobile Club de Monaco.
“Especially when my engineer told me I had to overtake ‘Mad Max’ (Verstappen, the young Red Bull driver), that’s not what I wanted to hear because if there is a driver hard to overtake, it’s him.
“That was one of the most intense moments of my career, with lots of adrenaline.”
Hamilton needed Rosberg, second in the Abu Dhabi race as it reached its denouement, to finish farther down to win a fourth world title.
The notoriously hard-racing Briton was leading the race and defied Mercedes team orders to speed up, and instead slowed down in an attempt to back Rosberg up and pile the pressure on.
Mercedes team bosses made it clear they were unhappy with Hamilton’s tactics, but Rosberg was more understanding.
“I did not know what my dear team-mate had in mind, he started driving like a grandma in front of me,” said Rosberg.
“But he was smart he was slowing down in portions where I could not overtake him, and he was fast going to those where overtaking would have been possible.”