Formula One’s reigning world champion, Nico Rosberg, retired shortly after the 2016 season. This not only leaves F1 without a driver trying to defend his title, but also without one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport’s history between Rosberg and his former teammate Lewis Hamilton.
During their four seasons together at Mercedes-AMG Petronas, the two arguably were the most dominant driver pairing ever to race in F1, though their relationship often was extremely volatile. Many speculate the fact they’ve known each other since they were children and their different personalities caused the extreme tension between them, but we’d argue it’s actually due to how much they have in common.
Hamilton and Rosberg were teammates in karting during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, but they parted ways after that to compete in different single-seater series. Interestingly, though, the paths their careers took that led them to become teammates again at Mercedes in 2013 are eerily similar.
After karting, both drivers raced in various junior formulas before spending one year — Rosberg in 2005, and Hamilton in 2006 — driving for ART Racing in GP2, now called Formula 2. They both won the GP2 championship on their first attempts, earning drives in F1 with iconic independent British teams, which they stayed with until making the jump to Mercedes.
Hamilton joined McLaren in 2007 for his rookie season He narrowly missed out on the championship, though the following year he clinched his first of three titles. Rosberg raced for Williams when he came to F1, and had an impressive debut, as he finished P7 after suffering damage at the beginning of the race, becoming the youngest driver to record a fastest lap in a race.
Both Rosberg and Hamilton were managed by their fathers in the early stages of their careers, but severed those professional ties to gain more independence, and to keep family and business separate. Similarly, the two have both said they joined Mercedes to take on a new challenge — albeit different ones — and grow as individuals.
With so many parallels between Rosberg and Hamilton’s career choices, and the motivation behind those decisions, it’s only natural they clashed so often. Although the two have different personalities, they have almost the exact drive when it comes to their professional lives.
Thumbnail photo via Mercedes-AMG Petronas