The shocking news to emerge from the world of Formula One on Friday was that the new World Champion, Nico Rosberg has announced his retirement from F1 with immediate effect. In the process Rosberg follows in the steps of Nigel Mansell & Alain Prost in retiring as the reigning World Champion.
This was certainly the last thing that any F1 fan expected to hear at the end of this season when Rosberg has fended off the challenge of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, all expected for the two rivals to duel it out once again next season. With new regulations and faster cars for 2017, F1 was excited to see if Rosberg could repeat his triumph, but the 31-year-old has decided to walk away.
Although many are shocked by the out of the blue news that came today, should we have seen it coming? Certainly looking back through the year, there have been clues that this was on the cards for the German.
Certainly the Rosberg/Hamilton rivalry peaked at the Spanish Grand Prix in May when they crashed into each other on the first lap, with that it emerged that Hamilton threatened to quit Mercedes midway through the season unless the matter was resolved. Also they collided on the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix, which led to Hamilton winning four races in a row, taking the Championship lead at that time.
Rosberg signed an extension to his Mercedes contract in the summer break, but when he was asked about it he would only comment about this season. He then regained his lead in the title race with victories in Belgium, Italy, Singapore & Japan. He revealed that this retirement had been on his mind ever since the Japanese Grand Prix, two months ago. He said the thought of retiring on top was a very tantalising prospect to him.
Then on the morning of the final race in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg was asked what number he would be wearing on his car next year, if he won the title, and oddly he refused to answer the question, which caused bemusement in the media, it was already clear as the sun began to set at the start of the race, it was also setting on Rosberg’s career.
After winning the title, the relief on Rosberg’s face on the podium interview afterwards told it’s own story, he knew that it was finally over. In his statement, he relieved he told Hamilton, his family and Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, of his retirement on Monday evening after Abu Dhabi and they all respected his choice.
So at the end of the day, why did he make this choice? Did he feel this was his last chance of a world title? Certainly having been beaten soundly beaten by Hamilton for the last two years, it would’ve made him look second class to Lewis if he lost again, especially after the 43-point lead he had over him early on in the season and still only just won the title.
Maybe the new rules next year will hurt Mercedes’ advantage over their rivals and Rosberg has left when the time is right, just like Hamilton joined them at the right time, three years ago. Was all the pressure just too much for him? Nico has always spoke of the media pressure has strained on both him and his young family and now with that off his back, he can relax and enjoy his future life.
The only person who knows the answer is Rosberg and people can only respect his choice. As he noted after 25 years of racing and reaching the peak that he could achieve that’s all he wants to do, so we wish him well in whatever he decides to do in his future. As for what this means for Mercedes and for Formula One in 2017? It leaves much intrigue over the winter for everyone to mull over.