Lewis Hamilton said he would miss the rivalry between Nico Rosberg and himself after the Formula One 2016 champion shocked the racing fraternity by announcing his retirement from the sport on Friday.
The 31-year-old, just five days after winning his maiden F1 driver's championship, said he made up his mind to hang up his boots when he stepped out to race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which saw a battle for the title between Mercedes teammates Rosberg and Hamilton.
Rosberg, who started his F1 career with Williams in 2006, moved to the Silver Arrows in 2010 and won his first race in 2012. He went on to add 22 more wins to his record and finished runner-up to Hamilton in the battle for title, twice (2014, 2015) before edging out the Brit in 2016 with just a five-point margin.
The German driver, who emulated his father Keke Rosberg's 1982 feat, said he wanted to spend time with his family and that he was not ready to take up the commitment of defending his title.
While maintaining that he was not surprised by Rosberg's decision, Hamilton rued he will not be able to fight with his outgoing teammate and take the title back from him.
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"This is the first time he's won (a title) in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop. He has also got a family to focus on, and wants more children, and Formula One takes so much of your time. Will I miss the rivalry? Of course," Hamilton said, as quoted by Reuters.
"Of course it is a shame that he won't allow me to take it [the title] back or fight to take it back but that is his choice and I respect his decision: go out on top while you can.
"We started out when we were 13 and we'd always talked about being champions. When I joined this team, Nico was there, which was again something we talked about when we were kids.
"It is going to be very, very strange and it will be sad not to have him in the team next year. The sport will miss him and I wish him all the best."
Hamilton, who was under fire from Mercedes after he purposely slowed down in the final few laps at Abu Dhabi in a bid to stop Rosberg from taking the title, will now be part of the constructors' primary plans for 2017. Notably, the Brit was facing the risk of losing his contract after he denied to follow the instructions given from his team last Sunday.
The Brit added he was not concerned about who Mercedes picks as his teammate for the next season following Rosberg's retirement. "It doesn't matter who...I'll race them, I'm here to race," he added.