Lewis Hamilton won his fourth Formula 1 World Championship title this year, cementing his spot as one of the sport's all-time greats.
Since breaking into Formula 1 in dramatic fashion in 2007, the Brit has proven himself one of the sport's most determined racers. How good is he? To find out, we tracked down the select band of drivers who have beaten him over the course of a season.
Nico Rosberg, 2016 Formula 1 champion
Time was teenage karting sensations Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton would spend all day as team-mates at the track, eat their evening meal together, sleep in a shared hotel room and then repeat it all over again.
And while their paths may have occasionally swung in different directions on the way up the ladder, both made it to Formula 1 and, between 2013 and 2016, they were reunited as they battled for supremacy in the Mercedes F1 team.
The stats from those occasionally tumultuous four years read very much in the Briton’s favour: two world titles to one, three seasons ahead in the standings to one, 1334 championship points scored to 1195. But Rosberg did out-score, out-race and out-qualify Hamilton on numerous occasions, and, most crucially, did so over the course of the entire 2016 season.
“Our relationship deteriorated as it gets pretty intense fighting for wins and world championships,” Rosberg (pictured below in his karting days) says now, a year into his post-championship retirement. “We grew up together, we worked well together but we are also two super-competitive people who were working with the same equipment in the same team to achieve the same goal. There’s no surprise that there were ups and downs but I believe the underlying respect was always there. It’s how we achieved so much for the team.”
How, then, with the benefit of hindsight, does Rosberg believe he beat Hamilton to reach the pinnacle of the sport? “I had to dedicate my life to winning,” he says, with a steely tone that suggests that the memories of both the hard work and the pride at the end result will never fade. “Lewis is one of the best of all time and we were in the same car, so the only way to do it was to give it my full focus.”
You could take that answer as a glib statement but, when asked to elaborate further, Rosberg gives the first of many insights into what the relentless pursuit of his goal required. “Winning the world title became a way of life,” he recalls. “Even when I was at home, I wasn’t really there. Every bit of my energy went into getting more from the day. Even relaxing required planning; I would try to conserve energy when I needed it, even if it was a day with my family, sitting down instead of standing up, conserving energy, maybe taking a shorter trip instead of a longer one, to take the absolute maximum from the day. Quiet time was really time working out how to go faster – or talking on the phone with my engineers discussing how we could go faster. It was constant.”