Nico Rosberg says Lewis Hamilton is 'one of the best ever F1 drivers'

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have been Mercedes team-mates for the past four seasons

World champion Nico Rosberg has paid tribute to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, calling him "one of the best ever" Formula 1 drivers.

The German beat the Briton by five points after a long battle over 21 races climaxed in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Rosberg said: "I owe some words to Lewis. He's one of the best in the world, one of the best ever surely, so it's incredibly intense to race him.

"I've got great respect for him because he does an incredible job."

The title battle ended in controversy at the Yas Marina circuit, when Hamilton drove deliberately slowly in an attempt to get rivals to overtake Rosberg.

Three-time champion Hamilton needed to win and for Rosberg to finish lower than third to make up the 12-point deficit he faced going into the race.

But Rosberg told BBC Sport on Tuesday that discussing the incident was "pointless" and has now added: "I've got great respect for him because he does an incredible job, he's done so well over the years and he fought to the very last metre on Sunday. That made it extremely tough on Sunday but all the more beautiful afterwards."

The two have been rivals since they started go-karting together as children, although the friendship they formed in their teenage years has cooled since they became Mercedes team-mates.

Rosberg said: "It feels like we've been doing it forever and he's always edged me out ever so slightly, so to finally get one back was awesome."

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff was not pleased with Hamilton's tactics after the race - the Briton ignored team orders to speed up, which were predicated on their claim that he was putting the victory at risk because of a threat from Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari.

Hamilton rejected these claims and said he was comfortable in the lead.

2016 F1 tale of the tape
How the stats compare for Rosberg and Hamilton in the 2016 season

Wolff has said he will consider whether to take any action against Hamilton in the coming days, and said after the race that "everything is possible".

On Wednesday he added: "When we first brought Lewis and Nico together as our driver pairing back in 2013, we made it clear that there would be no number one status for either of them - and they didn't want that either.

"We knew we had two world-class talents on our hands and that giving them equal opportunity to fulfil their potential would bring the best out of them.

"At the same time, we knew that this approach would sometimes give us some tough moments to deal with.

"It's something we took into account and accepted as a challenge worth tackling.

"When you see the results we've had together, it's clear that this is the right approach. One of the keys to our success has been that they constantly push each other - and that in turn kept raising the bar even higher.

"They are both born fighters and the intense competition has been good for them, for the team and for the sport."

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