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Nico Rosberg: Lewis Hamilton 'walked all over me' before 2016

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Retired world champion Nico Rosberg admits former Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton "walked all over him" before he learned to stand his ground in 2016 -- a change of mentality which earned him the title.

Rosberg won the championship in a tense finale at Abu Dhabi last year, just five days before his shocking decision to walk away at the pinnacle of his career. Rosberg had been beaten to the title by former karting teammate Hamilton in 2014 and 2015, a period which saw their friendship descend into acrimony due to the intensity of successive title fights.

Despite being unfancied going into 2016, a strong start and finish to the season helped the German follow in the footsteps of his father, Keke, who won the title in 1982. Rosberg has previously said he had felt mentally tougher than previous seasons and has admitting losing to Hamilton in back-to-back campaigns had been difficult to accept.

When asked if his close friendship with Hamilton had made losing to him in 2014 and 2015 all the more difficult, Rosberg told the Daily Mail: "That's right. The anger is bigger if that person you know so well does something that crosses the line."

Rosberg says he struggled to match Hamilton in wheel-to-wheel battles, a criticism which lingered throughout his time fighting for the championship, and had to counter the three-time world champion with a no-nonsense mental attitude.

"Lewis is very good at going to the edge without going outside the grey area, thanks to his skills in the car. He is smart, very, very smart. I found it harder to go wheel-to-wheel. For him, it comes naturally.

"For me it is more rational. I have to work at standing my ground. I got more aggressive because too often in the past he had walked all over me. I had to watch the videos and make improvements."

Rosberg has since been replaced at Mercedes by Valtteri Bottas.