New world champion Nico Rosberg insists that Mercedes has been “understanding” about his late decision to quit the team and F1. That is despite the fact that the reigning world champion team’s options for replacing him look severely limited, with top drivers Sebastian Vettel and now Fernando Alonso ruling themselves out. “I believe in this project, I’m committed and want to be world champion with McLaren-Honda,” Alonso said on a visit to the Woking factory this week, according to McLaren’s Twitter account. “That’s my only goal.” And another outside contender, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, is also out of the frame, with a spokesman saying the Spaniard “has a contract for 2017 and no plans to change“. Rosberg admits that one of the hardest parts of his decision to retire was “putting Mercedes in this situation“.
“Toto (Wolff) was very understanding, with Niki (Lauda) it took a little more time,” the 31-year-old German told French broadcaster Canal Plus. Asked what his former bosses will do now, Rosberg answered: “I don’t know. But I do know that Valtteri Bottas and Pascal Wehrlein are both excellent drivers.” As for his own future, Rosberg said: “Jacques (Villeneuve) told me once to continue as long as possible, but I didn’t listen and I’m relaxed about my decision.”
But he is not relaxing quite yet, as he is currently on an incredible around-the-world promotional schedule after wrapping up his first and only title. In Paris, he said: “Every day I’ve been in a different country, sometimes more. But it will all end on December 20, when I’ll be free. I’m doing this tour thinking of my championship, not my retirement. In a week when it all ends, it might be very strange.”
Also strange might be the changing dynamic of his relationship with former teammate Lewis Hamilton. “I feel like I’ve always raced against Lewis and he was always a little ahead of me, so to be champion in front of him has a special flavour. Any tensions with Lewis had no impact on the end of my career; it’s even possible that I’ll support him in the future. If he is world champion eight times, that only adds value to my performance this year,” Rosberg added. Finally, Rosberg was asked how he could give up his new two-year Mercedes contract that is reported to have been worth about EUR 45 million. “It was a good contract,” the German admitted, “but I didn’t even think about money in my decision. Through my work, I was able to make a lot of money, and I understood that more would not have made me happier in the future.”