Nico Rosberg has confirmed that he has quit F1 after winning his first world title. Photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters
The Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg has announced his shock retirement from the sport saying that, after winning the world title, he has “climbed [his] mountain” and is going out at the peak.
Rosberg, who claimed his maiden title at the season-deciding race in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, made the shock revelation at a press conference in Vienna, saying that winning the title had always been his dream and, having achieved it, he would stand down.
He also wrote on Facebook: “Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion. Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.”
His battle with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton dominated the season, after he had lost the 2014 and 2015 world title to the Briton. Hamilton overcame engine problems to push Rosberg to the last race but could not overhaul the German, who admitted he found the fight difficult.
“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough,” wrote Rosberg. “I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target.”
I have a message for you: https://t.co/XtL5AWuY4n pic.twitter.com/LGK4Xnihoq
December 2, 2016 Nico Rosberg
The 31-year-old Rosberg said he started thinking about retiring after he won in Suzuka and realised a world title was within his grasp. “From the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became world champion,” he wrote.
He said that he had almost made the decision by the morning of the season-ending Abu Dhabi race and that the process had cleared his head. He made a final call the following day after winning the title. “It was a process on Monday,” Rosberg added. “I didn’t know if I had the balls, and I took a bit of time.”
The first person he told were his wife and manager, and then the team, via the team’s head Toto Wolff. “Toto understood. He knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me. My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people.”
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Nico Rosberg seals Formula One championship title.
Wolff said: “This is a brave decision and testament to his strength of character, He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as world champion, having achieved his childhood dream. The clarity of his judgement meant I accepted his decision straight away.
“It’s impossible to capture the essence of a person in a few short words. But Nico has a special combination of natural talent and fighting spirit that have brought him to where he is today.
“Throughout his career, people have thought he was on a golden path to success just because his father was a World Champion; in fact, I think in some ways that made the challenge greater – and meant he had to fight even harder with the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
“With Mercedes, Nico has been a relentless competitor, bouncing back from tough times in an inspirational way, and he earned the respect of the sport with his tenacity, his fighting spirit and his grace under pressure.
“Since 2010, he has poured competitive energy into our team and we have grown stronger because of it. We simply say ‘thank you’ for the incredible contribution he has made to our success, alongside two of the all-time great drivers, Michael [Schumacher] and Lewis.”
Rosberg joined Mercedes in 2010 and partnered Schumacher, the seven-time champion, before Hamilton, his long-term rival, joined the team from McLaren in 2013.
Hamilton beat Rosberg to the drivers’ championship in 2014 and 2015 before the German finally ended his long-running losing streak by claiming the title in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.