“I am learning to trust myself more when it comes to emotions and decisions” – Nico Rosberg on life as an entrepreneur

The Formula 1 champion talks about his career away from the tracks, his suboptimal investment decisions, and why, no matter what he does, he tries not to hurt others

You’ll likely know Nico Rosberg from his Formula 1 days, an eleven-season stretch largely marked by the German driver’s preference for a measured, studied approach over impulse and off-the-cuff individualism; an era-defining rivalry with childhood friend turned arch antagonist, Lewis Hamilton; and his 2016 world championship win and surprise retirement announcement five days later. “I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right,” he said of the decision to bow out of the sport, in a statement at the time. 

Following the end of his high-octane career in a screaming, fire-breathing multi-million pound machine, Rosberg soon found greener pastures to roam: a commitment to promoting environmental reform in order to mitigate climate change. But, despite being well-versed in navigating testing corners for most of his life, there were some bumps in the road in his new endeavour. Below, Rosberg tells us about the importance of instinct and why he decided to go down a less ego-driven path.

After ending my career as an active driver, I was looking for new challenges to pursue in the coming years of my life outside of F1. There were two factors that were important to me: first, I wanted to build my own business and be successful at that; second, I wanted to do something that makes a difference in this world. For me, it was – and is – very important to find a way to have a positive impact of some sort. Arguably the biggest challenge we face right now as humans and as a society is climate change and the issues associated with our negative impact on the environment – this has become a key element of my business endeavours, along with all surrounding technologies that help tackle this issue.

In 2019, I co-founded the Greentech Festival, a global platform for pioneering sustainable ideas, which takes place annually in Berlin and, as of 2022, in London, New York and Singapore. With the tagline of ‘Turning Climate Crisis into Opportunity,’ this year, in London, we invited all those who stand behind inclusive, sustainable and ethical values to join the conversation and be ready to take on the challenges before us.

Indeed, mistakes always happen, this is a part of growing and learning in life. Without mistakes, we cannot make progress. Naturally, I also make mistakes and, like pretty much every entrepreneur, I have made a few suboptimal investment decisions. But they are exceptions and I value them for the lessons they teach me – trusting your instincts, for example. Sometimes you tend to ignore your gut feel about a certain business opportunity because you think it might turn out different from what you expect. But, in most cases, we have very good intuition, and it gets better with age and experience, so I am learning to trust myself more when it comes to emotions and decisions.

On the flip side, things can also turn out more successful than you expect. For example, I had no idea how big the Greentech Festival would become in just a couple of years after its inception. Right in the first year, we had over 40,000 visitors and have been growing steadily since then. This year, we have expanded into Great Britain, the US and Asia. It takes a lot of people to run such a business, and finding a good workforce is hard. We are very lucky to have a team of highly motivated, hard-working individuals who have managed to turn the festival into a global event series in such a short time and despite numerous challenges. As for every startup, the first couple of years were extremely stressful, and, with hindsight, I wish I had known what I signed up for!

Ultimately, I say that no matter what I do, I try not to hurt people. Being kind is a very important trait and I try to teach my daughters to be understanding and to help others when they can. It is something I came to learn during my time in F1; I worked with a psychologist for many years when dealing with mental obstacles in the sport, and I now know that supporting others is actually very good for oneself. This is also why I moved towards a less ego-driven career than F1 and try to give back through my projects.

Want more F1 content? Read our interview with Max Verstappen…

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