Nico Rosberg has spoken of the little love lost between himself and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, revealing the 'huge respect' he has for rival is ultimately tempered by satisfaction he receives when he defeats the three-time champion.
Ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix – which marks the mid-way point in the 2016 F1 season -, the lead Rosberg has held since the opening round has been whittled down to just a single point by the in-form Hamilton following a run of four wins in five races.
It comes against the backdrop of yet more inter-team feuding at Mercedes in the wake of Rosberg and Hamilton's controversial last lap clash in the Austrian Grand Prix, for which Rosberg was blamed.
The latest chapter in what has become a famously fractious relationship between the two drivers, though Hamilton recently sought to play down their rivalry by with 'clear the air' talks
that took place in the Monaco apartment they both reside in, Rosberg insists it is not a flourishing friendship.
“I have huge respect for him but, well, we're not best friends at the moment,” he told the Guardian
. “He's done some great things and he's been beating me. I have to fight back and that's the awesome challenge.
“That's the difficulty between us now. We're just both so competitive and that makes it difficult to be friends because the competition is so extreme.
“It was the same back then,” he continued, referencing their much discussed camaraderie growing up in karting. “How many pizzas could we eat? Who could run fastest from the lift to the hotel room? It would be competition all the way but there was not the surrounding influence with a team, the media and money. That makes it difficult now.”
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Indeed, Rosberg says the 'intensiveness' of the title tussle does its bit to ramp up the tension between the two drivers, even if it serves to ensure victory over Hamilton all the more pleasurable.
“Beating Lewis … he's one of the sweetest opponents,” he continued. “He's one of those opponents where you get the greatest satisfaction from beating him because he's world champion.”
“Fighting for the title is incredibly intensive. The learning curve is steep initially. I've learned a lot and made massive progress. The actual driving doesn't change much but it's such a difficult situation because you're racing together and, at the same time, against each other. That's a unique challenge.
“It's very difficult to find the right line. I have a duty for the team and for them it's so important to win the constructors' title but where is the line to my ego and what I want? It's always difficult. But this is my racing family.”
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