Nico Rosberg stunned Formula 1 on Friday with the shock announcement that he was retiring only days after achieving a lifetime ambition by winning his first world championship with Mercedes. Full statement here>>>
Rosberg, had given no previous indication of his intentions, said he had made the decision the day after the title race.
He admitted that telling his boss, Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff was tough, “It was massively difficult. I couldn’t tell him in person. I had to call him. It was massively intense especially after three hours of sleep.”
Today he is due to attend the governing FIA’s gala prize-giving in Vienna later on Friday along with team mate and triple world champion Lewis Hamilton, but did not say what he planned to do next.
Rosberg will depart Formula 1 with a record of 23 victories in 206 races – putting him equal 12th on the all-time list of winners along with Brazilian triple champion Nelson Piquet and as only the second son of a champion to take the title.
His Finnish father Keke was champion with Williams in 1982.
Nico Rosberg was also the first German driver to win the Formula 1 title with a German car and team, and now becomes the first champion to walk away without defending the title since Frenchman Alain Prost in 1993.
Rosberg’s battles with Hamilton, his boyhood friend and rival in karting, have lit up the last couple of seasons – and provided plenty of headlines – and he said that too had taken its toll.
The Monaco-based German married his childhood sweetheart Vivian in 2014 and they had a daughter last year. A devoted family man, Rosberg said his wife was the first person to know his decision.
He acknowledged that his retirement had put his “racing family” in a difficult position, although Hamilton will now be an even stronger favourite to win his fourth title next season.
Rivals also will see a dream vacancy that every driver on the starting grid would jump at if given the chance, Mercedes being the most dominant team in the sport with 19 wins in 21 races this season.
Mercedes have won the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the past three years in a row and will start next season, despite significant rule changes, as favourites again.
Rosberg’s boss Wolff hailed a “brave move” and said it was “testament to the strength of his character”.
Of the moment Rosberg gave him the news, Wolff said, “It was a very difficult moment. We spent a day in Malaysia, with such a big crowd cheering for Nico, something I have never seen – it was unbelievable.”
“We hopped on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and from Singapore to Frankfurt and then we had some emotional discussions and he was so clear by what he said that he had no doubt about his decision,” added the Mercedes chief
Wolff said Mercedes would take time to evaluate their options and they will probably need it, given that the top drivers are already signed up by rivals.
One who is still available is reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein, who has impressed at tail-enders Manor.
The 22-year-old, who holds joint Mauritian and German nationality, was passed over, however, when Mercedes-powered Force India went looking for a replacement from the Mercedes stable for Nico Hulkenberg.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon, 20, who is also a Mercedes-contracted driver, was chosen instead with Wolff describing him at the time as boasting the most impressive track record in junior formulae.
That, however, is unlikely to stop others from thumbing through their contracts to see whether they can engineer a move.
Nico Rosberg facts and stats:
- Born: Wiesbaden, Germany on June 27, 1985 (31 years old)
- Rosberg is the son of Finland’s 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, who won his title with Williams, and German mother Sina. He was born four days after Keke won the 1985 USA-East Grand Prix in Detroit.
- Rosberg grew up in Monaco and still lives there with his wife Vivian and daughter Alaia. He speaks five languages but not Finnish.
- He and Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, a triple world champion, were team mates in go-karts in 2000. Rosberg tested for Williams in 2004, aged 17 and before he had his driving licence.
- He declined a place to study aeronautical engineering at London University’s Imperial College.
- Rosberg made his Formula One race debut with Williams in Bahrain in 2006, scoring points with seventh place and setting the fastest lap, after becoming the first GP2 champion the previous season. He ended 2006 in 17th place overall.
- In 2007 he was ninth overall. The following year he stood on the podium for the first time, a third place in Australia, but ended up 13th at the end of the season.
- In 2009, his last year with Williams, he finished seventh overall.
- Rosberg joined Mercedes – who had bought champions Brawn GP – for the 2010 season and partnered seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher. The younger German scored 142 points to Schumacher’s 72.
- Rosberg also outscored Schumacher in the following two seasons, taking his first pole and grand prix victory in China in 2012.
- In 2013, Lewis Hamilton replaced Schumacher and finished the season fourth overall to Rosberg’s sixth.
- In 2013, Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix exactly 20 years after his father had triumphed there. In 2014, he had five wins – the same number that Keke had in his entire career — from 11 pole positions and finished overall runner-up to Hamilton.
- Rosberg was again championship runner-up to Hamilton in 2015 but ended the year strongly with three straight wins.
- He picked up where he left off in 2016 by taking the first four races, the first driver since Schumacher in 2004 to do that, while Hamilton suffered various problems.
- He is only the second son of a Formula One champion to win the title, after Damon Hill. Hill took his 1996 title 34 years after father Graham first became champion in 1962. Rosberg’s came 34 years after Keke’s success.
- Stunned the sport on 2 December by announcing his retirement. “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,” he said in a statement.