Nico Rosberg admitted on the Bahrain Grand Prix podium just how much he disliked coming second to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but also conceded that the pair had enjoyed an epic battle before coming home 1-2 for the second race running.
The German had qualified on pole position for round three of the championship, but lost the lead to his team-mate on the run to turn one. From then on, it was an aggressive game of cat-and-mouse between the pair, with Rosberg looking for ways to pass the Briton, only to be rebuffed or see Hamilton cut back in front on the exit of the corner.
“I thought I'd got him about nine times, but they didn't work,” the German sighed, “He always got the run back on me and he did a good job. That's it. Lewis is obviously a great driver and made it work. Next time I need to do better!”
Asked if he was aware just how close the pair had come to possible disaster, Rosberg admitted that it had been hard to get a read on the situation.
“Because it's difficult to see, you don't see him,” he noted, “I don't see where he is at times, I really don't know because there's a big dead angle in the car and so when it's so close, so many times I didn't know where he was. That's where I thought 'okay, now I've got him' and then, all of a sudden, he reappeared again!”
Having fallen behind his team-mate, Rosberg's side of the garage decided to continue with a plan to run a different strategy to Hamilton, fitting the harder medium compound tyres at the German's first stop, allowing him to return for the more competitive softs for the final run to the flag. When the safety car appeared to cover the clear-up of Esteban Gutierrez's wrecked Sauber, it gave Rosberg an even greater chance of success, but he remained thwarted.
“We tried to invert the strategies, just to give me a shot at the end,” he confirmed, “That was the plan before the race, so it worked out well. I tried to keep a good pace on the prime, knowing that I'd have a shot again at the end with the option and it was a good battle but, unfortunately, we couldn't make it happen today.”
Behind the safety car, both drivers were asked by technical chief Paddy Lowe to ensure that they brought the cars home in one piece – but that did not prevent them from continuing to run wheel-to-wheel over the final ten laps.
“I was well aware that the whole world was thinking 'here we go, Silver Arrows'
team orders, finally they're there',” Rosberg admitted, “That was clear to me, but it wasn't that at all, it was just 'guys, make sure that you get these cars to the finish, don't break them, don't crash'.
“The message was clear anyway, [and it wasn't] really necessary to give such a message because we know that. We drive very hard but, in the end, with the necessary respect. At no time were we at risk of taking both cars out. There was always the necessary margin - it might not have looked like it on TV, but there was. It was good racing.
“We're free to race all the way and, in the end, I just got a bit more overheating on the tyres in the last three laps because I was pushing so hard in the slipstream, with less grip, sliding a lot, and I couldn't get close enough any more.
“The team played it as fair as they possibly could today, letting us race flat out. I don't think you need more evidence than you saw that we're here to race this year and there's no team orders. We want to put on an amazing show for you guys out there, and today we managed that. Of course, that's the small positive, but I really don't like coming second!”