Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement last week has the motoring world abuzz. This is almost unprecedented in F1. Off the top of my head I can not think of another driver who was the reigning World Champion in the prime of his life, and calls it a career. [Ed Note: The last time it happened was when Alain Prost was world champ in 1993 and retired before the 1994 season].
If you saw this past week’s “In Case You Missed It” you know I personally have mixed feelings on Nico’s retirement. You can never fault a man for wanting to spend more time with his family. Missing time with his wife and daughter was chief among the reasons for Nico’s retirement.
On the other, as a fan, Nico’s decision to walk away immediately after winning his 1 and only World Championship doesn’t sit right with me. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s part of me who really doesn’t like this move. Full congratulations on winning the Championship, but doesn’t Nico want to defend his title? Doesn’t he have the drive to prove to people wrong? People who think he only won the championship was because Lewis had severe reliability woes in the beginning of the season? Doesn’t he want to try to win more, go down in history as one of this generations great drivers?
I was really looking forward to watching Lewis’ response to Nico winning the Championship. Their rivalry was one of the best things going in F1. Lewis has always had the upper-hand, now that the tides had turned, his response was going to be a huge story line going into the 2017 F1 season. In addition I can not state it enough, I really think Mad Max Verstappen is going to make a big leap next season. I think he is going to go from competing for podiums and the occasional win, to competing for the Championship. I felt Verstappen’s entry into the Championship hunt would have only made things between the Mercedes Boys that much more interesting. Unfortunately we won’t be seeing this. As it stands right now Verstappen is our only hope against a Lewis Hamilton runaway season.
This, of course, is all from a fan perspective. I can sit here and talk about the season that could have been and what has been robbed from me. The people put into difficulty by the surprise nature of Nico’s retirement is Mercedes AMG. They are now left in the difficult position of finding a new driver after all of the available drivers have singed for 2017. This is no small task, and Mercedes Team Chairman, Niki Lauda understands this, and is less than pleased with Nico’s sudden decision to retire.
“On one hand, you have to accept if Nico wants to go,” Lauda said. “But on the other, Nico signed a two-year contract with us in August. What bothers me is that Nico tells us that if he had not become world champion, he would have gone on. I think he could at least have hinted at this when he agreed to the contract. He says he just wanted to be champion and then stop, but the problem is that he never gave any signals that this was his concept. After all, 1,200 people of the F1 division at Mercedes gave him every opportunity to become world champion with a super car. And then he gave us his resignation overnight. This lone decision of Nico’s — and I mean everyone at Brackley and with Mercedes and many people who have worked closely with him, his engineers and mechanics — has ripped a giant hole in this excellent working team.”
Correction, Lauda isn’t “less than pleased” he sounds downright pissed. Seems like they operated this entire season under the working knowledge that Nico would honor the 2 year length of his contract. The fact that he hasn’t done so has ruffled some feathers. Has pissed some people off. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if there was a dart board in the shape of Nico’s face at the Mercedes AMG F1 break room. As for the disadvantage of having a driver leave a team this late in the proceedings, Lauda discussed that as well.
“We are only just starting this process now, because we were really completely surprised by this whole thing. We still have nothing — no solution,” said Lauda. “The issue of driver stability, when we have two world champions, the best driver pairing in Formula 1, is gone. There is now a lot of uncertainty. In short, we are now in the worst possible situation.”
Now I will freely admit it is a bit difficult to feel sorry for the team that has so comprehensively dominated F1 for the past 3 seasons. Fairly certian the rest of the F1 grid aren’t going to shed andy tears because 1 of Merc’s 2 World Champion drivers has left unexpectedly. They still have Lewis Hamilton, one of the greatest drivers of this generation. The Mercedes 2017 F1 car is likely to be very good so all is not lost for them. I see Lauda’s point though. This is a business, and at the end of the day Nico dropped his retirement right in Merc’s lap at the absolute worst time to do so.
At the end of the day, I honestly do not think Nico cares about any of this. He got his Championship. He is set for life, now its time to spend it with his family. You almost have to admire that. I got everything I could ever want, I don’t have to put up with the drama any more. If it was acceptable I could easily have seen Nico going full Scarface from Half Baked. Announcing his retirement like, “Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you, I’m out!” ::mic drop::