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Rosberg walked away from $100m F1 deal

NEWS STORY
16/08/2021

It will remain one of the sport's great mysteries... why, just days after winning the 2016 Formula One World Championship title, did Nico Rosberg walk away from the sport.

When news first filtered through, some thought it was a late (or early) April Fool, after all Spain's version, Dia de los Santos Inocentes, takes place in December.

But it was not a joke, Nico Rosberg had retired from F1... never to return.

Talking to The Times he reveals that at the time, having won the title, securing a new deal wouldn't have been an issue.

"There was $100 million on the table that I gave up on," he says. "(But) I longed for a different kind of life. You don't have flexibility when you're racing. It was the right decision for my family. I didn't think about the money for one second."

In the interview, the German, who now describes himself as a "sustainability entrepreneur", reveals his need for a sport's psychologist, whilst also shedding light on his relationship with Lewis Hamilton.

"He came on holiday with us on my dad's boat," he says of Hamilton, when the two youngsters were competing against one another in karts, but very good friends. One night, as they sat under the stars the pair fantasised about one day being teammates in F1. "And then that's what happened," says Rosberg. "Insane."

However, when the dream became reality...

"We had a battle inside a team," he says, admitting that having a friend as teammate changes the whole dynamic of the relationship. "You've got this changing balance of, I don't know… admiration? Respect?"

The feeling of team members 'taking sides' is almost paranoid.

"Sometimes it's one boss who is more on the other side. That's a tough, tough environment to be in," he says.

Indeed, he compares the rivalry to that of two band members who have worked together for years, realised their dreams only to end in a bitter feud.

"That's why they always break up eventually. Because there is so much at stake. They start fighting more and more and eventually break up because there's so much money at stake, so much recognition at stake.

"There were the two camps," he says, "the Nico camp and the Hamilton fans. And all the Hamilton fans were against me, of course. (One time) there were these four-year-old girls right in front of me with their dads, and they were booing me and giving me the thumbs down. Their dads had told them I was bad and that they needed to boo me.

Revealing that he sought the services of a sports psychologist, Rosberg admits that as the battle with his teammate intensified it was getting to him.

"At the time it was like, 'He's probably too nice to be world champion against the ruthless Lewis,' " the German admitting that there was some truth to it.

"I lost to Lewis three years in a row. And it was so painful, the last time. I locked myself in a hotel room. And I reminded myself that this is an opportunity to push, push, push like hell," he says. "It just enhanced my motivation, my focus.

"It went to the wire," he says of the 2016 title fight. "To the last corner. It couldn't have been more intense. And winning against Lewis, in the same car, after having struggled against him for decades? It was just so perfect."

Asked why he then chose to walk away, he replies: "I wanted to avoid going out as a has-been or someone who is not wanted any more," he says.

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1. Posted by zoom, 18/08/2021 21:33

"I applauded when Nico walked away. Happy he had a life to go to. How many of us would walk if we could. Every time I see Nico I start humming an old country & western song sung by Johnny Paycheck "Take This Job & Shove It". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj2iGAifSNI"

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2. Posted by kenji, 17/08/2021 4:42

"If the estimates of both Rosbergs wealth is anywhere close then combined they are worth in the region of $80/100 million. The split is around 50/50 so for the forseeable future they have more that enough to live extremely well and forego zippedy doo dah. Smart guy to walk away. Both he and his father have a great lifestyle..very good luck to both of them. Why would you even consider sharing a garage with the driver opposite who slowed down in front of you and tried to back you into the clutches of the red enemy [ Ferrari ] rather than see you win the title? Surely that's treason...."

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3. Posted by oilburner, 16/08/2021 19:22

"This one is odd because it isn't one of the biggest mysteries. Rosberg was about as clear as an athlete could be, IMO. He said he had given it "all" to beat Hamilton that year, and didn't want to expend that level of personal capital again if that's what it took to do it once.

Further, I guess he figured that the 100 million pounds + was a cheap buyout for his life, because a non (or questioning) committed driver is just about the most dangerous driver there is. He probably saved a life or at least spared a potential injury had he kept on half-heartedly just for the paycheck.

Some drivers can happily be #2 - Irvine, Berger, maybe now, Checo. Some can't settle, but focus their ambitions trying to become number one - Barrichello, VB, Weber. Eventually they re-align to a different definition of "#1" but at least keep their head in the game. It appears Nico knew himself enough to know he didn't want to make up the numbers, and didn't have the energy for another sustained WC campaign. So he walked away, *gaining* his life back, so to speak."

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4. Posted by C5, 16/08/2021 16:57

"Rosberg walking away is many things, but a mystery is ain't. Prime example, of which there's unfortunately much to few, of someone valuing their mental health and acting accordingly."

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5. Posted by Wokingchap, 16/08/2021 10:28

"He obviously didn't need the money and his principles were far more important to him, how can one not respect him for that? I hope he made it up with Lewis in the end."

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6. Posted by Max Noble, 16/08/2021 10:12

"Wow… keyboard not working for me today… apologies… “…is sometimes seen as arrogant because his English…”"

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 16/08/2021 10:11

"Just as dear Michael Schumacher is sometimes even as arrogant beau awe his English phrasing can sound “off” to those with English (…well, or American… ;-) ) as a first language, I believe Nico is often misinterpreted.

In a fair fight with a team mate, in that season he won. Respect is due.

He is now making clear he walked away for his family. If love, family bonds, and “…there is more to life than racing…” are truely what drove him, well Sir, well done.

…as a side note, I’d be most happy when he and Lewis get over that season, and are friends once more. I think for that we are going to need a mix of… Both have kids, one is seriously ill, Lewis retired, they are both plain old…"

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