Nico Rosberg was the last driver to beat Lewis Hamilton with the Mercedes team for the 2022 season. George Russell scored more points than the seven-time world champion in the season under the new regulations, thus taking first place in the championship. In a heated title fight, Rosberg also managed to overtake Hamilton and thus take the title. A few days later, the driver made an announcement that came as a bolt from the blue.
Hamilton and Rosberg were still best friends during karting, and at the start of their Formula 1 careers, the two drivers gave everything to each other. However, that changed very quickly when Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes. At the start, Michael Schumacher drove alongside Rosberg and this laid the foundation for the successes of the German team. In 2014, the team captured its first manufacturers’ title in the hybrid era and Hamilton took the drivers’ title. From that moment on, the relationship between the drivers became strained.
The feud between Rosberg and Hamilton comes to a head in Spain
In 2014, there were some moments when things did not go well between the two Mercedes drivers. The problems started at the Monaco Grand Prix when Rosberg made a bizarre mistake and caused a yellow flag. This allowed him to maintain first place and Hamilton wasn’t happy about it. In Belgium, Rosberg made matters worse when he lost his front wing in a game and slashed Hamilton’s rear tyre. The Briton had to stop his race later in the race, while Rosberg managed to get into second place. However, at the end of the season, when Hamilton took the world championship title in Abu Dhabi, the relationship still looked very good.
A year later, it was different when Hamilton won his third world title during the United States Grand Prix. Rosberg started from pole position, but in the rearview mirror, he saw his teammate’s Mercedes growing much faster. In the end, the son of one-time world champion Keke Rosberg was unable to get past the corner and fell behind. Rosberg managed to finish second, but was clearly angry with Hamilton. In the notoriously cold room, Hamilton handed him his Pirelli hat, but he threw it back at the guy from Stevenage. He also indicated on the podium that he was not satisfied with the result during the race.
The relationship between childhood friends was already strained, and just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse. On May 15, 2016, a day etched in the memory of many Dutch Formula 1 fans, things went completely wrong for both Mercedes drivers. Hamilton started from pole position, but was behind his teammate after the first set corner. Before Turn 4, the world champion at the time thought he could overtake Rosberg again, but the German decided to slam the door hard. This put Hamilton on the turf and spun, hitting his teammate. Both drivers ended up in a gravel trap and had to abandon their race. For a young Dutchman named Max Verstappen, it suddenly became a very nice day.
Hamilton’s tactics do not prevent Rosberg from the F1 title
The Spanish Grand Prix was particularly painful for Hamilton. The driver was already behind his teammate, with Rosberg managing to win all of the first four races. After the accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, only one non-Mercedes driver managed to win the race, Daniel Ricciardo at the Malaysian Grand Prix. In the other fifteen races, Rosberg scored five more wins and Hamilton won the other ten. Therefore, the difference between the two drivers was minimal at the end of the season. Only five points separate Hamilton and Rosberg after the final race in Abu Dhabi.
So there was only one race in the season where Rosberg managed to create a significant gap. For the rest, the results were exactly the same. The Malaysian Grand Prix was not only very nice for Ricciardo, but also terrible for Hamilton, despite Sebastian Vettel taking advantage of Rosberg after the start. Hamilton had to stop his race on the 40th lap with an engine problem. It was indeed an exception for Mercedes at the time, but it came at a difficult time for the now seven-time world champion. The driver managed to win the ensuing three races, but Rosberg also managed to finish in P2 each time.
When the drivers came to the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton again took the lead. The Briton took off from pole position, with his teammate behind him. As the final stages of the race approached, Hamilton decided to slow down more and more. As a result, Vettel and Verstappen kept their eyes on the Mercedes drivers. Hamilton naturally hoped that the Ferrari and Red Bull Racing drivers could overtake Rosberg, because Hamilton would only win the title if his teammate finished fourth or lower. However, that did not happen and Rosberg crowned himself Formula 1 World Champion.
Rosberg waves from the sky
Five days after the end of the season, it was time for Rosberg to collect his trophy at the FIA ceremony in Vienna. There silenced an entire room full of people with one ad. The Mercedes driver announced that he would not defend his world title in 2017. “Today is a very special day,” Rosberg said at the time. Not only because I can get this award, but also because I now want to take the opportunity to say that I have decided to end my Formula 1 career. “I have climbed the mountain, I am at my peak, and it seems like the right decision,” said the former driver.
For the entire Formula 1 world, he was a great choice by the Germans. The man who grew up and still lives in Monaco stated that he made the decision very quickly. “I made the decision two meters from the finish line,” Rosberg admitted in an interview with the Square Mile. “If you asked me, I would say this is the moment.” Rosberg says he no longer has much to look forward to in Formula 1, despite losing out on a lucrative deal with Mercedes. “I really gave everything and achieved my main goal. It felt so good in that moment to go out and enjoy another aspect of life.”
Hamilton saw Rosberg’s selection coming
The fact that Rosberg has decided to retire has forced Mercedes to look for a new teammate for Hamilton. The Briton said he had already seen Rosberg’s farewell coming. “It’s the first time he’s won in 18 years, so I don’t think it’s that strange,” the Mercedes driver told Motorsport.com. “He has a family to focus on. Formula 1 takes a lot of time. Am I going to miss the competition? He believes.” Perhaps Toto Wolff was completely relaxed after Rosberg’s departure, and the team boss has indicated several times that he had had too many meetings with the drivers after a new accident.
So only one person, besides Rosberg himself, saw the farewell coming. The German driver has taken the idea of ”stopping at your peak” to a whole new level. Rosberg was 31 when he won his world title and after a battle of attrition against Hamilton, it was all over with the driver. The world title is of course the highest that can be achieved, and given Rosberg’s age, the shot at Schumacher’s record also seemed unrealistic. However, he is not completely done with Formula 1. Rosberg can be found as a commentator or analyst on Sky Sports. The fire will still burn, but not as bad as 41-year-old Fernando Alonso’s.