F1 champion talks about retirement
Pressure of title race "unbelievable"
No plans to race competitively
New year, new you? The seasonal adage definitely applies to Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg.
When the F1 season begins in March, the German racer won’t be pressing the pedal to the metal – instead he’ll have his feet up.
“I’m just going to be at home, sitting on a couch, watching TV,” Rosberg told CNN after announcing his shock retirement in December. “That’s going to be strange!
“I’ll be excited to see the new cars and the battles. I’ll definitely be following.”
Under a new set of technical regulations for 2017, the fastest racing cars in the world are about to get even quicker with a wider chassis, fatter tires and higher cornering speeds.
But champion Rosberg is plotting a bit of rest and recuperation in his New Year resolutions after a grueling year wrestling the world title from his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton.
After losing the championship to Hamilton in 2014 and 2015, the German claimed the title by five points at the final race of 2016 in Abu Dhabi – and then retired five days later.
“The pressure and the intensity were unbelievable,” Rosberg explains. “There were some really hard moments along the way.”
“To lose to Lewis in the two championships prior to this year was very, very tough. It’s really not easy to handle.
“Even when I crossed the line [in Abu Dhabi] I wasn’t happy. I was relieved in the first instance!”
Rosberg highlighted “taking each other out in Barcelona” – when the two Mercedes teammates collided on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix – as his low point of 2016.
“It was the first time that had ever happened,” he explains. “It was so intense internally.”
Mercedes managed to keep a lid on boiling tensions between their dueling drivers throughout the rollercoaster season.
Hamilton’s frustrations did boil over when his engine blew up when he was leading the Malaysia Grand Prix. “Someone doesn’t want me to win this year,” he complained to reporters.
Rosberg maintained a mantra of taking one race at a time and credits his incredible season-long focus on careful mind management.
“For me the right direction was always to stay in the moment and not get caught up in these desires and dreams,” he reveals.
“I’ve been working on that with a mental trainer, with meditation and things like that, just to find that direction and to stay in the present.”
Living in the moment may have been key to Rosberg’s title triumph but a weight of expectation had been hanging over his motor racing career for more than three decades.
Born to F1 world champion Keke he relieved the pressure by winning the world title 34 years after his father’s feat. The pair are only the second father and son to both win the F1 championship following the late Graham Hill and his son Damon.
Family was at the heart of Rosberg’s success – and the reason behind his decision to quit as he plans to spend more time with his wife Vivian and their one-year-old daughter Alaia.
“I really feel fulfilled,” says Rosberg. “My family helped me so much. They all put racing as the number one priority, everything else was secondary.
“I never had any tough times with the little one and all parents out there know it can be very tough. Vivian took over all that so I could recharge the batteries at home.”
After his shock decision to retire, Rosberg will be spending more time at the family home in Monaco but hopes to find a new role in F1.
“I want to be involved in the sport in some way,” he says. “I know I’ll be a fan of our sport.”
Once he has settled into his new groove as a retired F1 world champion does he imagine he will follow many of those before him and eventually get back behind the wheel in another competitive category?
“I have a go-kart in the south of France so if I feel the need to drive, I just go up there with friends,” Rosberg says. “Apart from that nothing [is planned] at the moment.
“What I need is competition. There are other sports I also have passion for. I know that even if I play tennis I can get a similar sort of thrill and fun out of it. So let’s see.”
In the meantime when wheels roll at the opening Australian Grand Prix on March 26, Rosberg can put his feet up, turn on the TV and… relax.