Lewis Hamilton and freshly crowned world champion Nico Rosberg may be excellent drivers but they can't stop crashing into each other as tensions surface in their complex co-habitation at Mercedes.

The Hamilton/Rosberg soap opera, this season played out over a record 21 episodes from Australia to Sunday's tense climax in Abu Dhabi, makes for riveting viewing.

The origin of the rivalry stems from when the Briton moved from McLaren to join Rosberg at Mercedes in 2013. Flashpoints in 2014 came at Monaco when Rosberg ran off the track in final qualifying, and Belgium, where the pair collided leaving Hamilton with a puncture. Tension and acrimony fuelled by their contrasting characters and will to win kept their pressure cooker rivalry bubbling nicely throughout 2015.

Rosberg and Hamilton. PTI

This season, which began with Mercedes taking the unusual step of swapping the drivers' mechanics, has again produced fireworks.

Australia

Rosberg wons season opener after pole-sitter Hamilton's poor start saw the three-time champion slip to sixth. Hamilton recovered to second spot.

Bahrain

Rosberg took his second win of 2016 after Hamilton lost momentum in a collision with Valtteri Bottas in a Williams. The defending champion only finishes third and slips 17 points behind Rosberg in the title race.

China

Rosberg won from pole position for his sixth consecutive win, a run stretching back to Mexico in 2015. Hamilton suffered a number of setbacks both in qualifying and during the race itself, eventually finishing in seventh.

Russia

Rosberg made it four in a row for the season with a win from pole position as Hamilton finished second after starting 10th. The German now has a 43-point lead. His seven wins in a row matches the feat of Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher and Vettel in the sport's history.

Spain

Things begin to heat up.

Hamilton and Rosberg collide on the first lap with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo taking the lead. However, teenager Max Verstappen takes the chequered flag to become the youngest race winner in the sport's history.

Rosberg blames Hamilton for the crash: "I made it very clear I wasn't going to leave any space on the inside and I was very surprised he went for the gap," he said.

Monaco

They raced started behind the safety car and Hamilton took the lead before going on to take his first win of the season. Rosberg, the winner of the race in the past three seasons, struggled to a finish in seventh spot.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in Monaco. AFP

Canada

Hamilton won after getting the better of Vettel in a tense strategic duel. Rosberg is fifth, despite starting on the front row, having ended up on the grass after another coming together with Hamilton as they jostled for position.

Baku

In the first ever race in Azerbaijan, Rosberg won the European Grand Prix with Hamilton in fifth place. Victory gives Rosberg a 24-point lead in the title race.

Austria

Hamilton and Rosberg collide again, this time on the last lap before the British driver passes him to win a thrilling Austrian Grand Prix.

The German turns into a corner late as Hamilton tries to pass around the outside and damages his front wing, finishing fourth. Rosberg gets a 10-second penalty and two licence penalty points by stewards. Hamilton's deficit to Rosberg is just 11 points in the title race.

Great Britain

Hamilton takes dominant victory in a hectic British Grand Prix to cut Rosberg's championship lead to just one point. Hamilton leads every lap of a race that started under the safety car in wet conditions but dried, to take his fourth career win at Silverstone. Rosberg battled back to second past the Red Bull of the impressive Verstappen.

But Rosberg is demoted to third after an illegal radio transmission.

Rosberg is booed on podium at Hamilton's home circuit.

Hungary

Hamilton cruises to comfortable victory in Hungary and takes championship lead for the first time this season. The world champion controls the race from the moment he passes Rosberg at the start and is now six points ahead of the German.

Germany

Hamilton extends lead to 19 points after winning the German Grand Prix with ease as Rosberg toils to fourth. The home hero surrenders his lead from pole with a dreadful start to the Briton, who storms away to claim his sixth win in seven races.

Belgium

From his third successive pole, Rosberg rekindles his world championship ambitions with a first victory in a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix -- and his sixth of the season -- as Hamilton stages an astonishing fightback to finish third. Hamilton started 21st after being handed a 55-place grid penalty for taking three new power-units through the weekend.

Italy

Rosberg exploits Hamilton's poor start to claim his first win at Monza and move to within two points of his teammate in the world championship. Rosberg roars into the lead at the first corner when pole-sitter Hamilton becomes bogged down and pulls away to finish 15 seconds clear.

Singapore

Rosberg wins from pole position as Hamilton finishes third. The Briton struggles with over-heating brakes and lambasts his team over the radio for their strategic thinking. Victory gives Rosberg an eight-point lead in the title race.

Malaysia

Ricciardo triumphs but his win is overshadowed by Hamilton's claim that he was the victim of a conspiracy aimed at halting his march to a fourth world title. Hamilton was leading with 15 laps to go when the engine on his Mercedes spectacularly exploded. Rosberg survives a first-bend spin involving Vettel and a 10-second penalty to take third place.

Japan

Rosberg romps to victory for a first Suzuka win from pole as Hamilton takes third after a horror start. Hamilton comes under fire for his bizarre behaviour at a drivers' press conference where he takes photos on his phone and posts them to Snapchat using a 'bunny ear' filter.

United States

Hamilton claims his first victory in six races and a 50th career win. The Briton produces a flawless drive from pole position to finish almost five seconds ahead of Rosberg, cutting the gap to 26 points with three events left.

Hamilton took the win and the title but Rosberg, incensed by Hamilton's aggressive tactics to the first turn, petulantly tossed his cap at his teammate waiting to climb the podium.

Nico Rosberg celebrates his F1 title. AFP

Hamilton made light of Rosberg's 'capgate' tantrum.

"The cap thing? That was pretty funny," he said.

Mexico

Hamilton keeps alive his title defence with a controlled victory ahead of Rosberg in a stormy Mexican Grand Prix. The 31-year-old Briton came home comfortably ahead of the German to trim his advantage to 19 points with two races remaining.

Brazil

Hamilton makes it three from three to ensure the title goes down to the wire in a chaotic race with the Briton producing a stunning error-free performance at rain-lashed Interlagos. With Rosberg in second Hamilton cut the lead to 12 points.

Abu Dhabi

And so it came down to the final race.

Hamilton wins and disobeys team orders to speed up in the closing laps as he makes a last-ditch effort to try to stop Rosberg finishing second. But Rosberg holds off Vettel and Verstappen, takes second, and the championship by five points.

And thus one of the most entertaining sagas came to pass. Rosberg foiled his teammate's Machiavellian plot to finally claim his maiden title.

F1 fans must now wait until Melbourne in March for the opening episode in Hamilton v Rosberg IV which promises to be every bit as combustible and compelling as previous seasons.

With AFP inputs

Feature image source: PTI