► Nico Rosberg quits F1
► Days after winning maiden title
► ‘I have climbed my mountain, this feels right’
Five days after winning the 2016 Formula One drivers championship, Nico Rosberg has surprised fans by announcing he is walking away from the sport.
The Mercedes F1 driver announced earlier today (2 December) in a press conference in Vienna that he is retiring from F1 with immediate effect, and has issued a statement on his official Facebook page.
Rosberg has said that he made the decision to leave the day after winning the title.
CAR interviewed Nico Rosberg in depth immediately before his championship-winning season got underway. ‘I’m a fighter and the world championship is the dream I’m fighting for,’ he told us. ‘Since I was small, it’s been the only box I’ve wanted to tick.’ Read the exclusive interview in full here.
Mercedes team director Toto Wolff has commented: ‘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.’
No formal announcement has been made as to who will replace Rosberg at Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate for 2017. Official reserve driver for the team is Pascal Wehrlein, who completed his first season in F1 in 2016 driving for the relatively uncompetitive Manor team. Mercedes may opt to leapfrog him straight into the hot seat, or attempt to poach a more experienced driver from a rival team. With the team comfortably the most competitive on the grid in 2016, they’re unlikely to be short of offers, regardless of other drivers’ contracts.
The statement from Nico Rosberg’s Facebook page can be read in full below:
‘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…’
Above: Nico Rosberg, photographed exclusively for CAR by Andrew Shaylor