Nico Rosberg Retires: F1 Driver Calls It Quits Days After Winning World Title

Nico Rosberg has retired, effective immediately. The German F1 champion made the shocking announcement just days after winning the Formula One title.

As the Daily Mail reports, at a Friday press conference in Vienna, Rosberg announced that he’s made the decision to go out on top.

“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.”

Now that he’s leaving at the top of his game, Rosberg — who praised his wife, Vivian, and his daughter, Alaia, for the sacrifices they’ve made to his career — says his goal now is to concentrate on being a husband and a father. He leaves with three years left on his $23 million-per-year contract with Mercedes.

The 2016 Formula One season had been a grueling one for Rosberg and his Mercedes teammate and bitter rival, Lewis Hamilton. The two men, who have been at odds with each other at various points in their careers, had been going toe-to-toe all season, on the track and off. It all ended last week at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; in the end, Hamilton won the race, while Rosberg finished second. However, with nine wins and seven podiums, Rosberg beat his teammate and rival, and reigning world champion, by five points to win the 2016 championship.

Even though they’ve been Mercedes teammates for years now and the two men have known each other since childhood, Rosberg and Hamilton have had an intense rivalry that has frequently made for salacious headlines in the sports media industry. Earlier this week, Yahoo News reported that Rosberg said his relationship with Hamilton would “always be difficult.”

“We’re rivals. But the fact we’ve known each other since childhood helps in the difficult periods.”

On Sunday, that rivalry manifested in some rather controversial moves by Hamilton, including deliberately slowing down and blocking Rosberg in so that two other drivers — Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen — could pass him. Rosberg would later chalk it up to his teammate’s competitive nature.

“I find it a shame that we’re talking about that so much. I can also understand Lewis, he’s a fighter, the world title was at stake. One can understand sometimes overstepping the limits when you’re fighting for the world title.”

Hamilton, for his part, extended congratulations to his teammate on Instagram earlier this week.

Born in 1985 in Wiesbaden in what was then West Germany, Nico Rosberg has had racing in his blood since he was old enough to hold a steering wheel. His father, Keke Rosberg, was himself a Formula One grand champion, having taken the title back in 1982, three years before Nico was born.

Six-year-old Nico got his start in motorsports racing go-karts. By age 15, he and Briton Lewis Hamilton were teammates, a tense relationship that would continue throughout both of their careers. By 18, Rosberg and Hamilton were racing as teammates on Keke Rosberg’s Formula 3 team. He moved up to Formula 2 in 2005, and then to Formula One in 2006.

As of this writing, it is unclear how Mercedes will replace Rosberg now that he is retired.

[Featured Image by Lars Baron/Getty Images]