PATERSON: Looking Back at Rosberg’s Legacy
The biggest thing surrounding Nico Rosberg over the last seven years of his time at Mercedes has been the level of respect the motorsport community has given him.
For the most part, the announcement of his retirement at the tender age of 31 has surprised and sent thousands of messages of support to the German’s decision.
While doing this, a lot of talking and discussion has gone on over just why he has chosen to leave the sport at such a young age. He has clarified that through a statement, but there are possibly other factors behind the decision.
WHAT COULD HIS THINKING HAVE BEEN?
A long paragraph in his leaving statement was dedicated to the wretch of being away from his wife and daughter.
“Of course, that [fighting for the title] had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target,” he said.
“I cannot find enough words to thank my wife Vivian; she has been incredible. She understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, and created the space for me to get full recovery between every race, looking after our daughter each night, taking over when things got tough and putting our championship first.”
These drivers have faced 19-21 race weekends a year of competing in recent years, with themselves, mechanics and other staff separated from their families for long periods. That has to be draining on those with partners and children who stay at home, especially in similar cases to Rosberg’s to do it when their children are so young and they could potentially be missing out on special milestones in their young ones’ lives.
Not only that, but a lot of time will inevitably be spent physically training for the demands of the car during winter periods and learning about new devices or steering wheel buttons or similar that may be getting on the next generation of a team’s car which will also see time evaporate.
He leaves the sport with 23 wins, 30 pole positions, 57 podiums and 20 fastest laps, which are magnificent achievements. Some way between an okay driver and a record-breaker. A competent racer. He grew up watching his father, with Keke winning his 1982 championship with just one win, so he would surely appreciate the need not to chase ideals of records.
It is also interesting Rosberg mentioned in his statement that he was starting having thoughts after winning the Japanese Grand Prix. Thinking back to interviews around the United States Grand Prix and onwards he did seem to have a new sense of confidence and happiness, and maybe this was because he knew, like Felipe Massa or Jenson Button, that he could enjoy what was possibly the last few races of his career.
Rosberg is a first-hand witness to other drivers on the grid who have had their moment in the sun and then fallen down the order and into disappointing times. Once he has reached his threshold, what is left to do?
He has raced Lewis Hamilton since they were teenagers. They are now both 31-years-old and world champions. That is a long time to have an on-track rivalry with one person.
He has spent four years at Williams with just two podiums and two fastest laps. He’s already had a number of years before getting to a winning position of scrapping in the midfield of Formula One, something that Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel haven’t had to endure to that large extent.
For three years between 2010-2012 people focused on Michael Schumacher and his return, not noticing Rosberg’s ability to outperform him and win his first race.
Then he faced Hamilton for the second time in his life. He pushed Hamilton over two years despite losing the 2014 and 2015 championships and produced great things to win nine times and win the title in 2016.
SO, HOW DO WE REMEMBER ROSBERG?
With the decision now taken, the big question will he be remembered fondly as dust settles and in another generation where Hamilton could have another project, or Button could be a color commentator on TV?
Apparently, some trolls still believe that this 2016 season was the grand conspiracy and Rosberg is cowardly retiring because they have got their one and only chance at ruining the sport. It’s good to see they’ve given Formula One broadcasting rights to another planet, by the way.
It has been a divisive topic as consistency and dragging out speed when needed have put him in position.
He has stopped after an unbelievable season before a decline can step in. Retiring when Mercedes are still the best team in Formula One and have not been usurped, not needing to driving around for minor points places or experience.
He has been with Mercedes throughout their stint in Formula One and helped them get to where they are. He should be respected for that. There are some phenomenal drivers in this era of Formula One – Hamilton included – which he had to battle to learn from and beat on the track. He took his opportunity and used it well.
However, the fact that he hasn’t had time to respond and fight again and battle for a second title will bring questions and criticism.
Maybe it is because of the Mercedes domination, because of some of the tracks on the calendar, but his achievement may just be another two words in the history books. If this does happen, it will be sad to witness.
This may not just be the end of Rosberg, either. He may do other one-off or long-term racing events in future, or he may have ambassador opportunities within Mercedes if the door is still open. Those ideas are pure speculation, but it’s surely unlikely that he will fall entirely off the face of the Motorsport Earth.
For now, he may not be remembered as one of the biggest names ever, but he has made his own unique way into the memory of Formula One.
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