Nico Rosberg retired yesterday at age 31 after winning his first Formula 1 world championship at the end of his 11th season less than a week earlier. He bested three-time world champion, and Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton on the way to equaling his father Keke’s one world title, claimed in 1982.
I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He and wife Vivian Sibold have a 1-year old daughter together. Assuming he’s saved anything (much less invested well) he has 10 lifetime’s worth of money stored up. And he get to retire with his dignity intact, something that would have become increasingly unlikely had he continued to spend time in the same garage as Hamilton.
No shade on the Brit. He is who he is, including a prodigious talent. But while we’re talking, fuck Mercedes and may this be the beginning of the end of their micro-dynasty. Fuck them for allowing an increasingly petulant Hamilton to create what amounted to a hostile work environment.
And aside from the attitude, dude, from any rational point of view (and bolstered by his late-race radio communications in the Abu Dhabi season finale), was willing to put Rosberg in harm’s way to prevent him from winning the championship.
Hamilton was going for his third consecutive title and the only way he could secure it from the lead of the race would be to allow the third and fourth place cars to catch up to second-place Rosberg and see what happened. Even if both passed him and Rosberg finished fourth, he still would have been crowned the champ for 2016. No, what needed to happen was for incidental contact in the heat of competition to remove Rosberg from the race altogether.
And so Hamilton slowed, and slowed. His engineer got on the radio requesting that he pick up the pace. He refused. The team’s executive director got on the radio next and explicitly ordered Hamilton to go faster. Again, refusal. To quote: “Right now I’m losing the world championship, so I’m not really bothered if I’m going to win or lose this race.”
As it happened, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was running third and never pressed the issue and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo’s tires started to fade with him running fourth.
Mercedes’ car was the class of the field in almost every race, but not by such a margin that they can simply put anyone in it and expect them to run at the front. And exactly how well will Hamilton do when paired with a relative scrub and without Mercedes lining up 1-2 on nearly every starting grid? His team’s appeasement of him may or may not have driven Rosberg off, but it will almost certainly make repeating as runaway manufacturers’ champion a thing of the past.
Good riddance, Merc.
Long live Nico.