Just days after winning the 2016 Drivers World Championship Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has sensationally announced his retirement from Formula 1 effective immediately.
The shock announcement comes days after the German driver clinched his first ever world championship following a long, battle hard season with fellow Mercedes team mate and driver Lewis Hamilton. Despite Hamilton’s best, and still rather controversial, efforts Rosberg finished 2nd in the race in Abu Dhabi to become the 33rd different driver to win the world championship. Despite this fact the new world champion released a statement via Facebook this morning saying he would not be returning to the 2017 grid, even though he extended his contract with Mercedes for two years earlier on this year. Rosberg has revealed he took the decision to quit on Monday evening, just 24 hours after sealing his maiden title.
“When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion,” said Rosberg in his statement. “On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start.”
After informing his wife Vivian of his decisions and George Nolte, one of the masterminds in his management team, Rosberg then told Mercedes beam boss Toto Wolff. According to Rosberg, Wolff “knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me.”
Wolff has described Rosberg’s decision as “brave” and “testament to the strength of his character”. The Austrian was quick to praise the clarity of the decision of his driver.
“He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as World Champion, having achieved his childhood dream. The clarity of his judgement meant I accepted his decision straight away when he told me.”
Rosberg made his debut in Formula 1 in 2006 with Williams. He stayed with Williams for four seasons, despite the fact the team struggled with reliability and consistency. Though he was able to score his debut podium at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix, sharing the podium with Lewis Hamilton.
In 2010 Rosberg moved to Mercedes and partnered legendary seven-time world Champion Michael Schumacher, in his first few seasons there Rosberg consistently out drove and out scored Schumacher. And even scored his first win in 2012 at the Chinese Grand Prix. In 2013 Hamilton moved to the team and Mercedes quickly cemented themselves as the second-best team in the paddock, with more wins in Monaco and Britain for Rosberg that season.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016, following the shake-up in regulations, Rosberg found himself battling with team mate Hamilton for the world championship. The battle cost the two their friendship and was fraught with incidents between the two the team could have done without. While Hamilton won both the 2014 and 2015 Drivers’ World Championship, Rosberg was a very close 2nd in both. And in 2016 he was finally able to beat his team mate and be crowned champion.
Unsurprisingly, conversation has quickly turned to who will now be partnering Hamilton for the 2017 season at Mercedes. Though unsurprisingly Wolff remained tight lipped on the driver line up. “We will take the necessary time to evaluate our options.” Many suspect that young Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein could be the one to replace Rosberg. Though right now the feeling is anyone could replace Rosberg, as Mercedes could literally buy anyone out of their contract for the 2017 season, with both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel linked to the seat as well.
Full statement from Nico Rosberg:
“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion. Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.
“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough. I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target. I cannot find enough words to thank my wife Vivian; she has been incredible. She understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, and created the space for me to get full recovery between every race, looking after our daughter each night, taking over when things got tough and putting our championship first.
“When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion. On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start. I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life. I took my decision on Monday evening. After reflecting for a day, the first people I told were Vivian and Georg (Nolte, from Nico’s management team), followed by Toto.
“The only thing that makes this decision in any way difficult for me is because I am putting my racing family into a tough situation. But Toto understood. He knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me. My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people, the Silver Arrows.
“Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment. There is time to savour the next weeks, to reflect on the season and to enjoy every experience that comes my way. After that, I will turn the next corner in my life and see what it has in store for me…”
Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release.