Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg has announced his immediate retirement from Formula One days after taking his first and what will be his only world championship title. The news came as a shock and will bring huge ramifications to the drivers market late in the year with many of the big and rising stars already under contract for next season.
Rosberg who made his debut for Williams in 2006 said in a video message said “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.” Rosberg revealed he made his decision to retire twenty four hours after winning his title.
Only in July Rosberg signed a new contract for two years and now this leaves a vacancy with one of the biggest teams in Formula One. Both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have been linked to the seat despite being under contract with McLaren and Ferrari respectively.
Team boss Toto Wolff described the decision as brave and a testament to his strength of character before adding “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 203 race career has seen twenty three wins and fifty seven podiums over the last decade. Rosberg announced his decision at a press conference in Vienna, where this evening he and Mercedes will collect their 2016 championship trophies at the annual FIA Prize-Giving gala.
Rosberg says he told team-mate, friend and rival Lewis Hamilton before making the news public this afternoon. Hamilton says that it wasn’t a surprise to him before adding “It is going to be very, very strange, and it will be sad to not have him in the team next year. But we’ve got great team bosses and I’m sure they will chose the right people to represent them”
F1 Vault’s Analyst Jason Fluhrer says “Nico Rosberg surprised us all today by announcing his retirement from Formula One comes one week from him winning the title. I suspect this is because he wanted to go out with a bang and did so we will miss you Nico you deserved your title thanks for everything enjoy retirement.”
While other drivers have been thinking about 2017 Rosberg has been more reluctant to discuss next season and it appears that this has been a rush decision which we weren’t expecting. Thoughts now turn to finding a successor to drive alongside out-going champion Hamilton.
There are a number of options now going forward Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, Jenson Button who is not racing next year but McLaren have an option on him for 2018. But it could topple Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel or McLarens Fernando Alonso, should they pay a huge financial penalties to their current teams.
However it would look unlikely as it would add to the turmoil engulfing McLaren following the ousting of chairman Ron Dennis last month.
An apparent Email has been tweeted both by Mercedes from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with his ‘application’ for the seat, but this appears unlikely as Red Bull have signed him on a long term deal.
In a season and a year which has seen many shocks including Rosberg’s rise through the ranks and beating Hamilton on track for the first time, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the departure of McLaren CEO Ron Dennis who would have thought a new Formula One champion would retire in the modern era of the sport.
Felipe Massa tweeted “Congratulations my brother @nico_rosberg for this incredible career that you had!! Champion! Welcome …”
Williams where he began his career tweeted “Thanks for the memories @nico_rosberg #F1 will miss you. Enjoy your retirement! #DankeN1CO”
FIA President Jean Todt “I was privileged to receive a call from Toto Wolff this morning informing me of Nico’s decision. I was very surprised, as I’m sure everyone is, but Nico has demonstrated across the year that he is extremely brave. I think he did five or six of the hardest laps of his life in the final race of the championship but the consequence is that he made it.”
1992 champion Nigel Mansell “Nico what a brave very brave decision, he has some very powerful reasons I am sure. Brilliant World Champion. Very interesting for Merc now.”
F1 CEO Berine Ecclestone “He needs more time to spend his money, that’s all”