After one last leap, Rosberg calls time on his career  Just moments prior to accepting his trophy for becoming the 2016 World Formula One drivers Champion Nico Rosberg announced that, having achieved his life long dream, he no longer had the necessary emotional reserves to continue in Formula One and strive for another title. Put simply, the last few seasons battling with Lewis Hamilton had drained him. He was tired and, like Jenson Button, after 25 years of chasing his dream he needed a break from the permanent travel and stress that goes with being a Grand Prix driver these days. You could plainly see after the race in Abu Dhabi just how much pressure he had been under and what a relief it was to have triumphed. His description of the race, “it was horrible”, was probably a very telling comment in hindsight.

  As was his reply to a pit lane commentator who asked him if he would use the number 1 on his car next year. “We will see.” I have a sneaking suspicion that he already knew that he did not want to go through this again next year but wanted to let his team know before he made his decision public. To the very end his commitment to his team over all else is what made him so admired within the Mercedes squad. Some could suggest that Lewis should learn from his example. I hope that the decision was not made in haste and that in six months or a years time he will be wanting to return. It is wise to know when you can no longer give as much as you have done previously. If Rosberg had continued with this mindset he would have done neither himself nor his team justice. So Nico leaves us at the peak of his powers with his reputation as one of the best drivers of his day intact.

   As a result of course, that horrid ripping noise you hear is the sound of Grand Prix drivers and their managers all over the world trying to figure out if they can tear up their existing contracts and fill the vacant Mercedes drive. Mobile phone companies are making record profits as Toto Wolff’s phone reaches melting point. Toto himself joked (almost) that the only two drivers who had not contacted him were Kvyat and Raikkonen, and that was only because they didn’t have his number. So who is likely? Well Pascal Wehrlein as a Mercedes Junior driver is the most obvious candidate.

   You can almost imagine his emotions over the last month or so. Beginning with bewilderment and dejection at being overlooked by Force India in favour of his team-mate, Esteban Ocon, despite his outstanding performances at Manor this year. His options for next year were looking just a bit bleak with just the possibility of going to Sauber or staying at Manor the only ones left on the table. Another year at Manor was the likely outcome but that would leave him where? About where he is now with not many vacancies up the food chain except at a couple of the very top seats which he would be unlikely to get as they all have their own in house junior talent to draw from. And now the excitement of the very possible prospect of jumping into the departing World Champions seat and battling for race wins. If he gets it he will need to grab the opportunity by the throat to retain the seat beyond 2017. If he gets slaughtered by Hamilton he will not get a second chance as many of the top drivers contracts expire at the end of next year opening up some intriguing possibilities.

   Some could be very exciting and possibly work out well. Some could be exciting, but as toxic as the Prost/Senna partnership (for want of a better word). Ricciardo and Hamilton could work. Daniel is as non-political as they come but is blindingly fast. Without having to pull any back-room stunts his speed, dedication and personality would surely draw many of the team to his side and he would be a major threat to Hamilton’s hopes of future championships. I’m not quite so sure about the other two top line drivers working out though. Alonso/Hamilton 1 was about as harmonious as Prost/Senna and although Alonso has mellowed a touch since then it could be very interesting. The Mercedes management had a hard time sorting out the tiff’s between Hamilton and Rosberg but a determined Alonso could take things to an entirely new level. I don’t think Vettel would be much easier. Two more self-centered, self believing, determined individuals than Hamilton and Vettel you are unlikely to meet. Both have been seen to openly ignore team orders in the past if it was in their own interests, even at the detriment of the teams. Not sure Toto and Niki would like that much, but it could be bloody entertaining for the rest of us.

 Sam Snape

 5-12 2016