As Mercedes looks into the future, Nico Rosberg says his ideal teammate is Lewis Hamilton.
As the teammates duelled alone for the titles in 2014 and 2015, the rising acrimony of the relationship moved Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to warn that the pair may need to be separated beyond 2016.
Rosberg is the one with the expiring contract, but Wolff has said Hamilton’s contract also contains a clause about behaviour damaging to the team.
But when asked who he would like to see beside him at Mercedes into the future, Rosberg told the Munich newspaper TZ: “Lewis. He is a strong driver and the team has been successful.”
However, during their 2015 battle, Rosberg complained publicly that Hamilton is a driver who too often thinks only of himself rather than the team as a whole.
“That impression (of Hamilton) is not entirely true,” the German now clarifies. “As a driver, you need your team to be successful. If the team realises that you think only of yourself, the whole thing quickly fails to work.”
So while Hamilton once joked that life would be easier if there was a ‘wall’ between the two sides of the garage, Rosberg explains: “It will never happen because it’s not good for the team.
“We are here to win races for Mercedes. And under the conditions created by the team, the fact that we push each other can lead to tension, but the team benefits the most.”
It might be said that Rosberg’s sudden conciliatory tone is because he managed to turn around his early struggle in 2015 to finish with a winning hat-trick.
“Definitely I didn’t reinvent the wheel,” he explained. “Maybe I was just able to get back to 100 per cent where previously I was at 98. That is enough to make the difference.”
Others have surmised that the low-point of throwing away the win and the title in Austin was a wake-up call, and Rosberg confirmed: “After Austin I said to myself that it cannot go on like that.
“But it was always very close — usually only a tenth separates us, and in the end it was on my side. As for why, it’s difficult to explain,” he said.
So the German played down the notion that F1 will see a ‘new Rosberg’ in 2016.
“Basically no. But it will be a more developed Rosberg,” he explained. “One who learned from this season. And one who wants to carry over the advantage of the last race to the new season.
“For me, the new season began long ago.”