On the day he is set to collect the trophy for winning his first drivers’ world championship, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg has announced that he is to retire from Formula One racing.
“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion,” said Rosberg via social media. “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.”
Rosberg, who won nine Grands Prix this year en route to the title, said he began contemplating his future at October’s Japanese round, and then made his decision within 24 hours of last weekend’s thrilling finale in Abu Dhabi, where he secured the podium finish he needed to become champion.
“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,” he continued.
“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 (wife) Vivian and Georg (Nolte, from his management team), followed by (Mercedes-Benz Head of Motorsport) Toto (Wolff).”
Rosberg began his F1 career with Williams in 2006 before moving to Mercedes for the 2010 season. He won his first Grand Prix with the Silver Arrows in China 2012 and went on to take a total of 23 victories from 206 starts, twice finishing championship runner-up to team mate Lewis Hamilton before taking his maiden drivers’ crown.
“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough,” confessed Rosberg, who admitted thoughts of his family had played a part in his decision. “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.”
Rosberg, whose father Keke won the F1 world championship in 1982, revealed the other concern in his decision had been his Mercedes team, who will now have to find another driver to partner Hamilton in 2017.
“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,” he said “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.”
Rosberg announced his decision at a press conference in the Austrian capital of Vienna, where on Friday evening he and Mercedes will collect their 2016 championship trophies at the annual FIA Prize-Giving gala.
“Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment,” concluded Rosberg, who ruled out any future F1 return. “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…”