MONACO • Nico Rosberg says that he lost the world title "three times in my head" in the season-defining race in Abu Dhabi, calling Lewis Hamilton's desperate attempts to wreck his dream smart driving.
The German won his first World Championship and then shocked Formula One earlier this month when he retired at the age of 31.
His Mercedes team-mate and title rival Hamilton had gone into the final race of the season with a slim chance of retaining his crown and went on to win the race.
That was not enough though to deny Rosberg, who admits that he was devoured by self-doubt as the race unfolded. As it transpired, the German's second place was enough to seal his maiden title.
"In Abu Dhabi, I lost the title three times in my head," said Rosberg on Wednesday as he was made a life member of the Automobile Club de Monaco.
"Especially when my engineer told me I had to overtake 'Mad Max' (Verstappen, the young Red Bull driver), that's not what I wanted to hear because if there is a driver hard to overtake, it's him.
"That was one of the most intense moments of my career, with lots of adrenalin."
Hamilton needed Rosberg to finish farther down to win a fourth world title and slowed down in an attempt to pile the pressure on.
Mercedes team bosses made it clear they were unhappy with the Briton's tactics, but Rosberg was more understanding.
"I did not know what my dear team-mate had in mind, he started driving like a grandma in front of me," he said. "But he was smart - he was slowing down in portions where I could not overtake him, and he was fast going to those where overtaking would have been possible."