In a post on his Facebook page today, the news that Nico Rosberg to retire from F1 with immediate effect has stunned the world, on the eve of his coronation in the official end of season prize giving. Rosberg, winner of 23 Grand Prix and 30 pole positions, will be the first driver to not attempt to retain his crown since Alain Prost in 1994.
Rosberg’s F1 career has spanned 11 seasons with two teams – Williams and Mercedes. He was the inaugural GP2 champion in 2005, and has become the second GP2 champion to become World Champion. He spent four seasons at the Grove-based team, achieving two podium finishes in 2008 and becoming the then-youngest driver to set a fastest lap in a Grand Prix. For 2010, it was announced that Rosberg would partner the great Michael Schumacher in the all-new Mercedes team, which they bought from Ross Brawn.
Rosberg generally had the upper hand over Schumacher in their three years together as team mates. He would become the first Mercedes podium finisher, polesitter and race winner since 1955. At the end of 2012, news broke that Rosberg would be partnered by former karting team mate, friend and rival – Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg would win more races than Hamilton in 2013 – the only driver to date to achieve that. The two would endure a tense and sometimes controversial title battle in 2014, with Rosberg not always able to convert strong pole positions into race wins. However the humility he showed after his title defeat after a power unit problem in the title decider earned him a lot of respect. He ultimately admitted that the better man won.
2015 would see a stronger showing across the season from Hamilton, whilst Rosberg would suffer car problems at crucial points of the season. He would finish behind Hamilton in the championship, but would carry momentum into 2016, after winning the final three Grand Prix of the season.
2016 was however to be Rosberg’s year. Despite winning fewer races than his now triple champion team mate (10-9), Rosberg would make use of better reliability, better consistency and better starts to steal the crown from Hamilton, despite the Briton’s tactics in the final race to try and allow other rivals to pass. Following this success, and 206 Grand Prix entries and starts, Rosberg decided to call it a day, having achieved his ambition of becoming World Champion.
This leaves four World Champions on the grid for next year, following Jenson Button’s decision to stand down from Formula One as well.