Nico Rosberg announced a shock immediate retirement from Formula One, just days after a second place finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had seen the German pip teammate Lewis Hamilton to win his first ever world title.

Rosberg beat three-time champion Hamilton to the title by five points despite the Briton winning the season’s final four races.  The Mercedes driver, 31, took the decision to bow out of the sport at the top, saying “I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak.”

2016 was Rosberg’s eleventh season in F1, having joined Williams for the 2006 season. He has been part of the Mercedes garage for seven seasons after joining the team in 2010. In total Rosberg won 23 Grand Prix’s, placing him joint twelfth on the all time list of Grand Prix victories.  He ended the 2014 and 2015 seasons as runner-up in the drivers championship behind Hamilton before finally going one better and winning the title in 2016, after recording nine race victories and a further seven podium finishes.

“This season was so tough”, said Rosberg. “I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation”.  Rosberg cited the sacrifices and strains on family life in his retirement statement, thanking his “incredible wife”, adding, “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.”

Toto Wolff, executive director of the Mercedes team, paid tribute to his driver, saying “He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as World Champion, having achieved his childhood dream. We simply say ‘thank you’ for the incredible contribution he has made to our success”.

The shock timing of Rosberg’s decision leaves Mercedes with the difficult task of replacing a world champion driver while most other experienced drivers are already under contract for the 2017 season.  “The only thing that makes this decision in any way difficult for me is because I am putting my racing family into a tough situation”, Rosberg claimed.

These sentiments were echoed by team-boss Wolff, who has overseen three consecutive Constructors’ Championship victories with Mercedes, although the executive director was keen to speak positively about the opportunity. “For the team this is an unexpected situation but also an exciting one. We will take the necessary time to evaluate our options then find the right path for our future.”

– Alistair Sargent, Correspondent (Sport)