As their fierce rivalry this year came to its zenith on Sunday, Nico Rosberg was notably gracious in defeat. The bullish German had spent the Abu Dhabi weekend firing psychological barbs at Lewis Hamilton, but on Sunday he was beaten off the line by the Briton before technical problems began to strike.
Rosberg and Hamilton, old friends and boyhood karting teammates, have clashed memorably in 2014 as their in-house title battle intensified. But as the non-alcoholic rose water flowed on the podium amid fireworks in the sky, the defeated Rosberg was gracious in defeat. "He (Hamilton) did a little bit of a better job than me in the races this year. Tiny bits that I need to find," he said.
Earlier, although he finished the race just 14th, Rosberg even made his way into the pre-podium room to congratulate his rival, and the pair embraced and shared some of the first words they have uttered to one another for weeks. "He just came into the room, very, very professional," said Hamilton, "and he just said 'fantastic'. He said 'you drove really well'. And the same to him -- all year long he drove incredibly well, especially in qualifying, so hats off to him."
Rosberg also graciously attended Mercedes' post-race team party, even though he said watching the champagne flow for Hamilton was "a bit hard". But the pair once again came face to face, with Rosberg explaining: "I said 'you deserve it'. He was the best driver on the grid this year, and it was a great battle between us. And I race for battles such as this."
Rosberg's disappointment will be compounded on Tuesday when he must return to the cockpit of his recently-malfunctioned car for the post-race Abu Dhabi test. "Right now I have to say that I am not really in the mood for it," he admitted late on Sunday.
Hamilton admitted that their embraces and handshakes may "ease" some of the tension that has characterised their rivalry in 2014. He said: "He was graceful enough to come up to me and see me after, which I really appreciated. It was really big of him to be able to do that. It's very, very tough, I know what it's like losing a championship so, for sure, we'll keep working at it."
Team boss Toto Wolff said he was also happy to see how gracious Rosberg was in defeat. "The most emotional I felt today was when I saw Nico going up to congratulate him," he told German television. "That's outstanding by Nico because I know the discussions we had after Spa, where the relationship was exactly the opposite. So I'm very happy for both of them because it needed Lewis to accept Nico's congratulations," he added. "It probably would have been exactly the same the other way around," Wolff told the RTL broadcaster. "For us it is great that we have two such great sportsmen in the team." (GMM)