Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s explosive rivalry started over pizza

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were childhood friends who went on to have one of the most turbulent rivalries in the history of Formula 1.

The British champion and his German rival sparked huge on track battles that spilled over into furious press conferences.

At the height of their feud, the pair's relationship was even compared to the rivalry between racing legends Alain prost and Ayrton Senna.

It exploded in 2014 following the Belgian Grand Prix where Rosberg had won pole position, only to be overtaken by his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.

During the second lap he took the lead after colliding with Hamilton's left rear tyre, forcing him to retire from the race on the 39th lap.

The Brit, widely regarded as one of the best F1 drivers in the sport, was furious – and so were the crowd.

Rosberg was booed four times over his contact with Hamilton but the stewards investigated what had happened and declared it "a racing incident", insisting neither driver was to blame.

In a highly charged press conference after the race Hamilton raged: "We had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose.

"He said he could have avoided it, but he didn't want to. He basically said, 'I did it to prove a point'."

Tempers did cool several days later when Rosberg claimed an "error of judgement" as he accepted responsibility for causing the contact.

He apologised to Hamilton, the Mercedes team and Formula 1 fans.

Hamilton also said it would be unfair to blame just one driver and that mistakes had been made.

He added: "There is a deep foundation that still exists for me and Nico to work from, in spite of our difficult times and differences."

But what led to such fierece rivalry between the two men who had once been childhood friends?

They had raced together since they were just 14 years old, even sharing hotel rooms as boys and on the circuit.

Their vastly different backgrounds have been highlighted as an early indication the pair would not get on.

Hamilton grew up in a council estate whose dad worked tirelessly to help him achieve his dream.

In contrast, Rosberg father was a Formula 1 driver and there was no question about him making it in the profession.

It didn't stop them becoming firm friends – but the whole time there was an undercurrent of rivalry and wanting to be better than the other.

Former driver, Robert Kubica, who knew Hamilton and Rosberg as boys, explained: "As a kid, I didn't like pizza, but I remember often going out for dinner with Lewis and Nico.

"They would even have races to eat pizza, always eating two at a time."

He said the pair were always competitive with each other, even when it came to play fighting when they were sharing a room.

Kubica told the BBC: "They always wanted to win, to beat each other. But they didn't fight. It was friendly competition. There was always laughing afterwards.

"We had so much fun. We were friends. It was nice. We were normal kids. I have good memories of growing up with them."

Both Hamilton and Rosberg have also admitted to a friendly rivalry when they were growing up.

Rosberg used to ride everywhere on a unicycle, so Hamilton had to teach himself to ride one – learning in just two hours.

But both men admit it was fun.

Hamilton said: "I have never laughed so much than when we were racing together. Nico was kicking everyone's butt at that time. We had some great races together and built a great relationship.

"We were just arriving and enjoying go-karts and eating pizzas every weekend, fighting all the time and just having fun."

However, as soon as they made it into the big league of Formula 1 their friendly rivalry vanished – it was "just business".

And something changed from the fun and games when they were boys.

Dino Chiesa, who was both Hamilton and Rosberg's old karting boss, explained: "Nico accepted finishing second in a race but Lewis always wanted to win."

After finally beating his old rival to become World Champion, Rosberg announced his shock retirement in 2016, saying he had reached the "pinnacle" of his career.

Despite their strained relationship, Hamilton wished his former childhood pal well – although there was one final dig.

He said at the time: "The sport will miss him, but I wish him all the best.

"This is the first time he's won in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop. But he's also got a family to focus on and probably wants to have more children. Formula One takes up so much of your time."

Lewis Hamilton

But after spending so long competiting both together and against each other, Rosberg's farewell was also tinged with sadness for Hamilton.

He said: "In terms of missing the rivalry, of course because we started karting when we were 13 and we would always talk about being champions.

"When I joined this team, Nico was there, which was something we spoke about when we were kids. So it's going to be very, very strange, and, for sure, it will be sad to not have him in the team."

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