For 20 years, Nico Rosberg’s life was dictated by the racing calendar. Two decades of raw adrenaline: driving at pulsating speeds, inches from an unforgiving metal crash barrier; spraying champagne from the top step of the podium into an adoring crowd below; and seriously lucrative, life-changing contracts. But it also required gritty dedication and personal sacrifice. Life on the road from the end of March through to late November; long periods estranged from friends and family; wave after wave of press conferences and ambassadorial commitments – the demands on a Formula One driver are heavy. Today, however, he couldn’t be further from this drama.
I meet Nico in Monaco, in the office designed by his wife Vivian, a stone’s throw from the clear waters of the Ligurian Sea. Sitting across a boardroom table, with a photo of his Mercedes race car on the wall behind him, Nico has swapped his overalls for a perfectly tailored navy suit and freshly pressed white shirt. He looks every inch the entrepreneur. He is incredibly calm, content, happy. Much of it is down to the birth of his second daughter, Naila, just days before my visit – the mere mention of her name brings a huge, loving grin to his face, as if it hasn’t quite sunk in yet – but it also derives from the new direction his life and ambitions have taken since his shock announcement in December 2016 to retire from Formula One, five days after winning his maiden World Championship title.
His announcement was called brave, rash, admirable and bizarre. For Nico, however, the decision was simple.