Lewis Hamilton admitted that he could see Mercedes team-mate finally gaining revenge for a race early in their careers as they duelled over victory in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
Although the Briton eventually held on to claim his second win of the 2014 F1 season, he revealed afterwards that his mind was filled with memories of a karting event in which he had played the Rosberg role, and feared that the German was about to turn the tables on him on an even bigger stage.
“I came to Italy for my second big, big race and Nico was already a superstar there,” Hamilton explained, “He was the lead driver for [the] CRG [factory team] and I, through McLaren, was fortunate to get a top drive. Nico was leading the race, I was second, and I pushed him to get away from everyone else. Then, on the last lap, I overtook him and won the race, which was amazing for me!
“I think that was the start of our relationship and careers in racing, but I was thinking today that he was going to get me back - I'll have led the whole time and payback's here. I just did everything I could to keep him back...”
The battle between the two, whilst just one of several through the field, was the one that caught the imagination and, with Mercedes allowing them to race to the end, provided a thrilling spectacle that defied pre-race suggestions that the sport needed livening up from senior F1 figures that should really know better.
“I think we were both on the knife-edge and, when you're on the knife-edge, the risk increases,” Hamilton observed, “Undoubtedly, we were on the limit and maybe, next time, we'll come back a little bit [from there], but I was not letting it up today - he was doing 100, so I couldn't do 95. He drove fantastically well, he was fair and I like to think that I was too. It was close, but we didn't damage each others' race. The team put their trust in us and that was great.”
Asked whether the fans can expect more of the same over the rest of the season, Hamilton was quick to point out that it was unlikely, although he would not hesitate to take up the cudgels again should it be required.
“I don't think it will always be like that, but I hope there are races like that,” he noted, “Hopefully they're not all like that because my career will be a lot shorter because of how much heart, how much energy it takes to put races like that together. But I hope, for the fans, that we see more racing like that back through the pack - and I hope the fans today saw that it was great fun.”
Having gone into the race on the back foot, victory not only allowed Hamilton to chip another seven points off Rosberg's championship lead, but also provided extra personal satisfaction.
“It's important [to win in those circumstances], but it's also the most satisfying,” he confirmed, “I've worked so hard this weekend, stayed extra long last night to just try and find out every little detail that I could because I knew that I didn't have the ultimate pace this weekend like I did last week. You can't be the quickest at every single track, because there are going to be tracks where one gets it better than the other, and [Rosberg]'s particularly strong here, but to have that kind of pressure on you, you want to make sure you're on the limit without making mistakes and I felt that I didn't make any mistakes.
“When the safety car came out, I think I had a good enough lead, around 9.6secs, to have held on. When the safety car came in, I immediately thought 'sh*t, he's on options and I'm on primes, it's going to take a miracle for me to hold him back'. There's six-tenths [difference] in those tyres and he had so much grip where I didn't!
“However, it felt like one of the best calculated races I have had , because of how I was using my power, how I was positioning my car. He'd catch me down the back straight and stick with me through the last corner. He had like 10-12kph on me with the DRS, so I had to accept he was going to come past and not go to the inside to block. I'd move just a little to make him think, then move back, accept that he's going to come back and then try to get back the other way. I don't know how I did it all the time, but I did it....”