Chances are, you’d have to be a Mercedes insider and executive or Lewis Hamilton to not be surprised by Friday’s shock announcement that the recently-crowned Formula World Champion, Nico Rosberg, will retire from the sport with immediate effect. It certainly caught me off guard and to be fair, the worldwide press as well as no one was even whispering that he may retire at the end of this season.
“I want to take the opportunity to announce that I have decided to end my Formula 1 career in this moment here,” said Rosberg.
“It’s hard to explain, it has been ever since I started when I was six years old, I had a very clear dream and that was to become Formula 1 world champion.
“Now I’ve achieved that, I’ve put everything into it for 25 years of racing and with the help of everybody around me, with the help of fans and the help of my team and my family and friends I have managed to achieve that this year.
“So it has been an incredible experience for me that I will remember forever.
“At the same time, it has been very very tough also because the last two years losing to Lewis were extremely difficult moments for me, which fuelled my motivation in a way that I didn’t even know was possible to fight back and to achieve my dream finally.”
Putting this all in context, Rosberg has fought for 25 years to reach the pinnacle of motorsport, the Formula 1 world title. He’s achieved that and now, as a father and husband, he’s ready for a new chapter in his life. The mental, physical and travel stress is not something he is willing to continue doing. Some drivers, who are fathers, are still chasing multiple titles or their first title but for Nico, he came, he saw and he kicked F1’s #$$. Job done, career done, new chapter in his young life.
If you consider the last several years at Mercedes a ladder from non-competitive car to losing two titles to his teammate and finally claiming his own glory, then you can start to see he had a plan all along. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, says he wasn’t surprised by the announcement:
“I’m probably one of the only people that it was not a surprise to,” Hamilton said at the FIA Prize Giving in Vienna.
“But that’s because I’ve known him for a long time.
“This is the first time he’s won [in their rivalry since karting] in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop.
“But he’s also got a family to focus on, having children, and Formula 1 takes so much of your time.
“We started out when we were 13 and we’d always talked about being champions.
“When I joined this team [Mercedes] Nico was there, which was again something we talked about when we were kids.
“It’s going to be very very strange, and it will be sad not to have him in the team next year.
“The sport will miss him, and I wish him all the best.”
While this sound like Lewis making himself the center of the conversation that has now moved away from his brand message space, to be perfectly fair, he’s probably right. They’ve known each other since they were young boys and Lewis is best placed to know the thought process Nico has.
Some have argued that this world title was a parting gift for Rosberg by the team and his immediate retirement has added fuel to the mobocracy conspiracy about Lewis being conspired against to lose the title to Rosberg. Perhaps Lewis’s book, in ten years, will confirm it but for now, I think Nico has achieved what he wanted.
On the surface of the news, Nico has given all he has for his motorsport career and F1 and he’s done it with a veneer that has never betrayed his ultimate intention to win the title and retire. The bigger question now is who will replace Nico and the team says it is in no rush to fill the spot.
They do have Pascal Werhlein and Esteban Ocon but the latter just signed a deal with Force India which left the former rather red-faced over the situation. Perhaps the Force India contract is porous enough to allow for Ocon to move to Mercedes and Wehrlein to Force India? If not, could this fate have played into Pascal’s hands over Esteban? Of was this the plan all along if Toto knew this was coming? Move Ocon to Force India and keep Pascal for Nico’s seat?
What about Fernando Alonso who would relish the idea of getting in a Mercedes and with the turmoil at McLaren, perhaps this is a good opportunity. There are several drivers on the grid who will be looking at their contracts with a magnifying glass trying to determine if they can legally make the call to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and inquire about the seat.
The question of when Toto knew will be a sensitive answer because if they say the team knew earlier this year, conspiracies will fly!
For now, as a father, I appreciate Nico’s decision and wish him the very best and this does nothing to taint his world championship in my mind. Each man has to know when to say when and while some want a career in F1 and define their value via F1’s spoils, others are eager to do something else with their careers. Congratulations Nico and all the best.