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ROSBERG, HAMILTON TRADE COMPLIMENTS BEFORE THE GLOVES COME OFF

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will fight it out to the end in pursuit of the 2016 drivers’ world championship on Sunday, but Friday’s Yas Marina Circuit official press conference was all sweetness and light between the Mercedes teammates.

Issued on behalf of Scot Sport...

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will fight it out to the end in pursuit of the 2016 drivers’ world championship on Sunday, but Friday’s Yas Marina Circuit official press conference was all sweetness and light between the Mercedes teammates.

Asked which of the other’s races had most impressed them in 2016, Rosberg went first: ‘He’s done a great season, there’s been a lot of great races that Lewis has done, he’s been a great competitor, a tough opponent as always, as was to be expected, but for me at the moment it’s just focus on this weekend.’

‘I haven’t seen any of his races!’ smiled Hamilton. ‘He was quick in lots of different places, but I don’t think there’s ever one that really stands out.’

Though self-praise is no honour, both men were asked to nominate their own best performances of a season where the title advantage has swung back and forth. ‘One of the highlights for me was Singapore this year,’ replied Rosberg, ‘because it was a weekend in an important part of the season which really went my way, in qualifying, in the race under pressure from the Red Bull and still getting the win. That’s one I really like to look back on.’

‘I don’t want to discard the negative ones,’ was Hamilton’s response, ‘I think it’s important to try and remember the negative ones because those experiences are the ones that help you appreciate more of the wins. But one of my favourite races was Monaco, in tricky conditions in the rain, then wet and dry, staying ahead of Daniel (Ricciardo) was a serious challenge and one I really loved.’

Perhaps the highlight came when they were asked how their relationship had been affected by their last few years as teammates fighting for the title. ‘It’s been an interesting one,’ said Lewis. ‘We obviously had a very good relationship when we started out as kids. For kids karting, you’re out having fun. We had a lot in common – we loved pizza, eating boxes of Frosties, doing all crazy things… I still do every one of those but Nico has shifted.

‘Then we got to Formula 1, which was something we had spoken about as kids. It’s had its ups and downs, but ultimately I think, particularly in the last year at the age we are – which is pretty old considering when we first met! – we’ve been able to manage it pretty well. Stepping away from being our competitive selves I’m very proud of him and how he’s driven this year. Generally it’s been a pleasure to have him as a teammate and I’m sure that will continue.’

‘The thing that we still have from back in those days is the base respect,’ added Rosberg, ‘and that will never go. It’s definitely helped us through these years. I have a lot of respect for Lewis, outside of the car and also inside the car. Some difficult moments, some good ones in the last years and this year in general I think we made some progress. It’s generally neutral but it is a difficult environment.’

Deeply saddened by the death of former McLaren team doctor Aki Hintsa last week, Hamilton insisted he would draw inspiration from him in the season’s final race. ‘Coming here this weekend, whilst I have that fighting spirit in my heart from the last races I’ve done, I come here with almost double the power in the sense that I want to win this race, more so for him. While it’s an emotional time, I’m here to do him proud, and drive with the belief that he had in me.’

Self-belief was at the heart of Rosberg’s own final answer. Asked what was more important, the championship or victory here, the title favourite said: ‘For me here the most important is to do an awesome performance, because that’s going to get both, isn’t it? I’m doing whatever it takes to give the best possible performance. Keep it simple…’

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