Mercedes' Nico Rosberg admits to dark times during the 2014 F1 season
But the German says he overcame disappointment of finishing second immediately
Rosberg and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton had fractious relationship last season
The 29-year-old says their partnership will continue to be an intense one
For Formula One fanatics it was a thrilling spectacle – the sport’s top two drivers going head-to-head for the drivers’ championship title.
That Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were teammates, from the Mercedes stable, made it all the more enthralling.
Not only did they go corner-to-corner on the circuit, they also traded verbal volleys away from the pit lane.
For Rosberg, who was ultimately beaten to the world title by the Briton and had to deal with plenty of criticism along the way, it wasn’t the first time he’d felt like an outsider.
As testing for the 2015 season continues, he says last term provided some trying moments but he insists he can’t think of a better teammate than Hamilton.
“Of course there have been clouds,” he told Formula One’s official website. “Everybody has his own relative worries.
“I was treated pretty badly by the other kids in my early school years. I was traveling a lot with my parents, so I never belonged to a gang – I was always the outsider.
“Later in life I discovered the beauty of traveling, but as a small kid I hated it – I wanted to be part [of things]. This might sound like small fry, but a seven-year-old takes that very seriously.
“But also my racing career was cloudy at times: my two Formula Three years when I didn’t go anywhere and my Formula One dream almost became elusive. And even in Formula One I had tough periods.
“I wanted to win and had been driving so many years behind, seeing the others having these awesome cars – Lewis in the early days at McLaren and Vettel at Red Bull – and I was just driving behind.
“Sure it was not suffering in any way, but for me individually I want to win and if I don’t win it sucks. But I am not dwelling on the past. One day after Abu Dhabi my life was back to normal.”
Prior to last season’s runner-up berth, Rosberg’s best finish in an F1 season was sixth back in 2013.
But once it became clear 2014’s spoils were a straight contest between the German and Hamilton, cracks began to appear in their relationship, which began back in their teenage years.
It reached a nadir at the Belgian Grand Prix, when the pair – who were allowed to develop a fiercely competitive rivalry by their team – collided early in the race.
Hamilton was later forced to retire and told reporters after the race Rosberg had admitted to crashing into him on purpose.
The 29-year-old was blamed by Mercedes, fined and made to apologize, Hamilton going on to win six of the last seven races to claim his second F1 crown.
But despite the negative press their spat engendered last term, Rosberg thinks its tempestuous nature is likely to continue in 2015.
“We have a relationship that goes up and down and it will continue to go up and down,” he explained. “It is an intense battle between us and that will not change any time soon.
“Last year’s experience helps. It’s that ‘been there, done that’ kind of thing. All the difficult times have made me stronger. It is the difficult moments where I learn the most.
“Of course with time, and the situation, the skin grows thicker. Yes, there have been challenging times, but from my point of view I always felt comfortable, and it continues like that.”
When asked if he could think of a better teammate to have than Hamilton he replied: “No. It is the challenge that I relish.”
Mercedes’ decision to permit their two drivers to go hell for leather in pursuit of the F1 title was questioned in some quarters, especially after that flashpoint in Belgium.
But according to team principal Toto Wolff, that modus operandi and the tension it brings can help spur his drivers onto greater heights.
“We chose a strategy of ‘let them race,’” he explained. “For a team it is better to have two equally good drivers trying to beat each other but also sharing data with each other.
“That is when a team is getting pushed forward. The downside – the intense competition – we will live with. We have learned from last season. We have matured as a team, including the drivers.
“Yes, I have no illusions that 2015 will be an easier year. There will again be times of discussion, sure. But these are the situations that bring you to the front.”
Wolff says everyone at Mercedes is hungry to replicate last season’s success, in which it won the drivers’ and constructors’ championship.
And while admitting this season could see greater competition from the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull, he wouldn’t be drawn on which of his drivers has the edge going into the new season.
“Before we start that discussion: we have to provide them with a car that gives them the tool to fight for the championship,” he said.
“They had a very intense battle last year and I have no doubt that if they have a good car they will be fighting for wins and the championship again.
“But honestly I don’t see 2015 as a runaway season for one of the two – so there will be lots of ‘excitement’ for the team and another sizzling season for the fans.”
Wolf also said he had no concerns about Hamilton’s contract, which is entering its final season.
“We are having discussions – very positive ones, which will come to a positive end soon. I have no doubt about that,” he said.
“We met each other after the break one week ago and had a good discussion. There is no hurry. It’s only January and his contract runs for another year.
“So when we discuss, it’s still about something that’s happening in 12 months. No stress. We want him to stay and he wants to stay, so there are no risks in taking the situation calmly.”