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Shocker: F1 Champion Rosberg Retires

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 2 2016
Nico Rosberg announced his retirement on Friday, less than a week after he won the Formula One championship.

Nico Rosberg announced his retirement on Friday, less than a week after he won the 2016 Formula One championship.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Newly crowned Formula One World Driving Champion Nico Rosberg is won-and-done.

Rosberg shocked the motorsports universe Friday, announcing his retirement from Mercedes formula1logoAMG and the FIA Formula One World Championship during a press conference in Vienna, Austria, where he and Mercedes were scheduled to collect their 2016 championship trophies at the annual FIA Prize-Giving gala.

“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion,” Rosberg said 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, 31, clinched his championship Sunday by a five-point margin with a second-place finish to Mercedes teammate/nemesis Lewis Hamilton in the season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Nico is the 33rd driver to have won F1’s World Championship. Nico and father Keke, a native of Finland, joined an exclusive club with that result.  Keke Rosberg was crowned 1982 World Champion despite winning only one race in his Williams/Ford. The Rosbergs are only the second father/son combination to have achieved that feat in F1 history. Englishman Graham Hill won World Championships in 1962 and 1968 while son Damon earned the 1996 title.

During an interview Monday with BBC Radio 5 Live, Rosberg joked about the emotional relief he experienced after emulating his father.

“I can confirm that I am a Double World Champion, because we became the party champions on Sunday night,” said Rosberg, who won nine of 21 races this season. “It was big _ epic, massive! I was very lucky because all my friends and family were there, they came, so we all partied together. It was an amazing time. I think we wrapped up at quarter-to-9 (a.m.) That was when I had the last picture on my phone.

“My mum (Sina) has never ever seen a race of mine because she’s so scared, so she came right after the finish, and of course it was unbelievably emotional when she found out I had won. We were both crying our eyes out.  She said it was one of the best moments she has ever had in her life, and it was really wonderful to hear that. 

“And with my dad he came a bit later on, and that was special, you know. All of a sudden it’s become one of the biggest things I’m talking about _ half of every interview is about my dad. I used to hate it, but now I’m loving it, because one of the most emotional things for me was that I managed to achieve what he achieved. And to share that now with him, to compare, is really one of the most special things for me.”

Rosberg said he actually began to formulate his exit strategy during F1’s annual weekend in Japan, Round 17 on Oct. 9. That turned out to be Rosberg’s final win of the season. Beginning with the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 23, Hamilton qualified on-pole and won the final four races.

“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,” Rosberg said. “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 in 2012 and went on to a total of 23 victories in 206 starts, twice finishing as championship runnerup to Hamilton.

“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough,” said Rosberg, a native of Germany. “I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fueled 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, who signed a new contract with Mercedes last spring, said the one factor that concerned him was the effect his retirement would have on Mercedes. The team now must find a driver to partner with Hamilton, a three-time World Champion.

“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,” Rosberg 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.”

On Monday, Rosberg also downplayed the tactics Hamilton employed during the final laps of Sunday’s race. Hamilton began the season-ender 12 points behind Rosberg in the standings and in need of a victory and a disastrous result for Rosberg to clinch his fourth title. As the final laps played-out, the Brit was widely criticized for ignoring instructions from the Mercedes pit wall and attempting to back Rosberg into the clutches of Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.

Hamilton won the 55-lapper around the 3.451-mile/5.554-kilometer/21-turn Yas Marina Circuit in 1 hour, 38:04.013-seconds at 186.824 mph. Rosberg trailed by 0.439-seconds with four-time World Champion Vettel 0.843-seconds back and Verstappen 1.685-seconds behind Hamilton, who scored his series-leading 10th victory.

“You can understand the team’s perspective, they were not so happy with that,” Rosberg said. “But at the same time it’s easy to understand his perspective because as drivers we’re fighters and it’s about the World Championship. But anyway we can just drop the whole discussion. There’s no point even discussing this topic anymore I think. It’s done, and it’s a thing of the past. It’s fine.

“Lewis is an amazing driver, one of the best of all-time; that’s clear. It’s always tough to beat him, always _ and that makes it all the more special now that I finally managed to get one back on him and take the championship away from him.

“The relationship with him, we have the base respect, because we were really good friends back in the day, and that will always remain _ the respect _ and that helps, even though it’s difficult because you’re in the same team fighting each other. It’s an intense environment.”

Rosberg also ruled out a return to F1. “Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment,” Rosberg said. “There is time to savor 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.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 2 2016
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