Nico Rosberg says he would be open to rebuilding his friendship with Lewis Hamilton now that they are no longer teammates in Formula One.
The relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton is as old as their rivalry, dating back to their karting days when they were teammates at Team MBM in the Formula A karting championship. The pair travelled to races across Europe together and tales of friendly competition -- including how fast they could eat pizza -- are well documented.
Their careers split in 2002 as Hamilton went to compete in Formula Renault and Rosberg opted for Formula BMW. From the following season onwards, Rosberg was one year ahead of Hamilton through the junior series before reaching Formula One with Williams in 2006 -- one year before Hamilton made his debut with McLaren in 2007.
The two drivers were reunited as teammates at Mercedes in 2013 and the relationship became increasingly strained as the team emerged as the dominant force in F1 in 2014. Although both drivers always talked of an underlying respect for one another, it became increasingly clear that any friendship had been overtaken by a fierce rivalry and the desire to be world champion.
Hamilton won the title in 2014 and 2015, but in 2016 Rosberg took the championship and retired just five days after the thrilling showdown in Abu Dhabi. The pair have appeared together at events since then -- and still live in the same apartment block in Monaco -- but Rosberg suspects it may take some time for them to become close friends again.
"I think it's going to take a little bit more time than that to find our way," he said at the Laureus Sports awards. "In general, yes, the competition is gone completely and suddenly, so we have already had some nice relaxed moments.
"Who knows, I'm open to having a better relationship with him again in the future -- we were best friends 15 years ago after all."
Speaking about his decision to retire, Rosberg said his passion for F1 had always been linked to his desire to prove himself as the best.
"I was massively passionate about my racing. It's with that passion that you become world champion after fighting for 11 years in Formula One. Those things were never really on my mind in such a way and none of those things would be a reason for stopping, because really the challenge was the sport -- that's what I was racing for.
"Even fighting through those difficult situations, that gives the awesome pleasure afterwards of having overcome those challenges. That's what sport is about because we are warriors out there, in the end, on the race track. My passion was also very much related to these challenges and trying to be the best out there; trying to beat everybody else and be the best in the world. That's what my passion was."