Nico Rosberg returned to Formula One for the first time as a champion on Wednesday – but his path did not cross with former foe Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg, 31, stunned the sporting world last November after he announced his retirement just five days following his title triumph at the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The German, now working as an ambassador for Mercedes, was in Barcelona on a branding mission on Tuesday night before spending time at the Circuit de Catalunya paddock on Wednesday morning.
Rosberg was greeted by members of his world championship-winning Mercedes team, and he also spoke to Valtteri Bottas – the Finnish driver who has replaced him this season – but there was seemingly no time for a reunion with Hamilton.
Rosberg’s relationship with the Briton, which extends back to their career as teenagers on the same karting team, drastically deteriorated in the three years they fought for the F1 championship.
“I haven’t seen Lewis,” Rosberg said. “It’s good to be back. First of all to see my racing family again and there is such a massive hype around the sport so I wanted to see it first hand.
“The new cars look absolutely monstrous, very, very aggressive and everybody is excited which is great to see. The drivers are loving it, and this year they will be proper gladiators out there because the cars will take them to their physical limits.”
Reflecting on his decision to retire, Rosberg insisted he had no regrets, adding: “There was not one single moment where I thought ‘oh damn I should be sitting in that car’. That was interesting for me to realise and perfect of course.”
Bottas, the 27-year-old Finnish driver, was on duty for Mercedes on day three of the opening winter test with Hamilton set to take over after the lunch break.
Despite the overhaul in the sport’s technical regulations this winter, Mercedes, who have won 51 of the last 59 races, appear to remain the class of the field.
As such, Bottas, the former Williams driver who is yet to open his winning account in Formula One, could be the closest challenger to Hamilton’s quest for a fourth championship.
“Valtteri is a good driver so for sure we ought to expect that he will be challenging Lewis,” Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the championship by five points last season, added.
“It is difficult to predict how they are going to compare and we all know that Lewis is a massive benchmark so it is never going to be easy against him but it will be a good battle.
“I did tell him (Bottas) a little bit about the human side, how he will be used in the team, and how to best integrate yourself. I can help him out with that and I am happy to have a drink with him at some point.”