Mercedes remain baffled by Nico Rosberg’s ‘bizarre’ moment in Formula One history

Five years after he stepped away from Formula One, Mercedes strategy director James Vowles says he’s still baffled by Nico Rosberg’s retirement.

Rosberg sent shockwaves through the Formula One paddock at the end of 2016 after beating Lewis Hamilton to the world title and then promptly quitting the championship a week later.

The German won the world title in the final race of the season in a nail-biting final in Abu Dhabi, however decided at that point he wouldn’t be returning to defend his crown.

At the time Rosberg said: “I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right.”

Rosberg beat Hamilton by five points, winning nine races in 2016.

“For 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’, to become Formula 1 world champion,” he added.

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“Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it.”

The son of Finnish 1982 world champion Keke, Rosberg was asked if there was any chance of a return, however he replied: “No definitely not. End of story. Done.”

But speaking on F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast, Vowles spoke about Rosberg’s retirement – admitting at the time it caught him by surprise, and even now he still doesn’t entirely understand why he walked away.

Asked by host Tom Clarkson if he was surprised by Rosberg’s retirement, Vowles replied: “Yeah, because Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] called us into the office and we didn’t really know what to expect.

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“But, if Toto said list five things that I might be about to say, Nico retiring wasn’t on that list. And it was just, you know, a bizarre moment.

“And even now, it’s quite hard to work out why he asked to be released from his contract, because even if he wasn’t going to beat Lewis again, he was in a good car, he would be winning races, and part of a team that was doing something amazing.

“But there must have been some very personal reasons for it and he had obviously achieved what he wanted to. So, yeah, big, big shock.”

At the time, Hamilton said: “He has a family he wants to focus on, and F1 takes so much from you.

“It is definitely going to be strange and it will be sad to not have him in the team next year.”

And even Wolff admitted the announcement came as a complete surprise.

“This is a brave decision by Nico and a testament to the strength of his character,” Wolff added.

“The clarity of his judgement meant I accepted his decision straight away when he told me.

“We now have to consider options and we will start to look at it on Monday.”

Away from the fierce four-year rivalry with team-mate Hamilton, Rosberg raced in 206 grands prix, winning 23 and finishing on the podium 57 times.

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