Nico Rosberg: I can laugh with Lewis Hamilton now

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Beating Hamilton made title win sweeter - Rosberg

World champion Nico Rosberg says that he and rival Lewis Hamilton can "have a laugh together" despite the team-mates' intense battle for the title.

Rosberg, 31, who retired five days after his triumph, said a "base respect" from their teenage karting days prevented a fatal falling-out.

"We had a few nice conversations since my retirement. There were some kind words from him," he told BBC Sport.

"Who knows, in the future, we might get on well again."

In an interview with BBC Sport, the German revealed:

  • How he had changed his race preparation in the wake of title defeats by Mercedes colleague Hamilton in 2014 and 2015.
  • How he reflects on his shock decision to end his Formula 1 career at the top.
  • His joy at finally matching father Keke's world title success

A relationship damaged, but not beyond repair

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
Hamilton and Rosberg competed over pizza slices and wrestling matches, as well as on track as youngsters

Rosberg and Hamilton were friends and team-mates as young teenagers on the karting circuit, sharing hotel rooms as well as garages.

However, their relationship has been strained as they have contested the title over the past three seasons.

The tension between the pair - evident in Rosberg's testy reaction when Hamilton tossed him a 'second place' cap after sealing the 2015 title in Austin - has been increased by collisions at the Spanish and Austrian Grands Prix this year.

In the 2016 Abu Dhabi decider, Hamilton disobeyed team orders by deliberating driving slowly at the front of the race in an attempt bring other drivers into contention and force Rosberg out of the top-three finish he needed for the title.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton congratulated Rosberg on social media

However, Hamilton congratulated Rosberg on the podium and on Twitter after the race.

"Beating Lewis makes it all the more special because he is one of the best out there, a great rival and a very, very tough competitor," added Rosberg.

Meditation and karting

Rosberg and Hamilton's battles recalled the great rivalry shared between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna when team-mates at McLaren in the late eighties.

After finishing second to Hamilton by 67 and 59 points respectively in the previous two seasons, Rosberg changed his mental and technical approach.

"I just went all out this year," he said.

Comparison of Rosberg and Hamilton season
How the rivals matched up over the 2016 season

"I had a mental trainer and looked into meditation - actually meditation is a big word, it was more mindfulness training... awareness.

"The other one was go-karting. We only drive every two weeks and you can imagine a tennis player who only practises every two weeks - that is not going to be good for his skill.

"I did a lot of go-karting in between. For sure that really helped."

No U-turns

Rosberg has suggested he might turn to acting after finishing his racing career and is certain he will not be tempted back to the sport like other world champions such as Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.

"For sure, it is definite," he said when asked about his retirement.

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Who will replace Rosberg at Mercedes?

"It is not an easy step. It is a big change, but it feels right."

Mercedes have identified Williams' Valtteri Bottas as their preferred replacement after Rosberg unexpectedly quit with two years left on his contract. Williams have rejected an initial approach for the Finn.

Hamilton has said that he "doesn't care" who is brought in to replace Rosberg.

The joy of being world champion

Rosberg, whose father Keke won the world title in 1982, says that the joy of finally reaching motorsport's pinnacle is still sinking in.

"I couldn't sleep at one o'clock in the morning," he said.

"I was going back in my thoughts and suddenly I just punched the air because it has happened.

"It is very special."

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