Rosberg’s wife was happy, but Niki Lauda wasn’t.
NICO Rosberg will be smiling for weeks, even months, but Mercedes isn’t so happy.
The 2016 world champion’s shock retirement a few days ago caught everyone by surprise, even his own team. After pipping Lewis Hamilton for the title at the year’s final grand prix in Abu Dhabi, the German decided to go out on a high.
His sudden exit has left Mercedes in the lurch. The Silver Arrows have a couple of options now when it comes to finding a replacement: Poach another top line driver like McLaren’s Fernando Alonso or promote a junior driver like Pascal Wehrlein or Esteban Ocon who have been driving for Manor this year.
Either way, Mercedes has a lot to think about right now, and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda is none too happy about it.
The former world champion was angry at Rosberg for the timing of his announcement and the fact he gave the team no prior warning about what his future intentions were.
“What annoys me the most is that now Nico is telling us that he would have continued had he not won the world championship,” Lauda was quoted as saying by Germany’sDie Welt newspaper.
“This is something he could have at least hinted at when he signed his contract. In this case, we could have prepared a Plan B — we would have had to in order to be ready. But it is as it is.
“We all gave him the opportunity to become world champion in a fantastic car — and then he tells us he wants to retire.
“This has created a huge hole in this great working team. And we’re left looking dumb.”
The 67-year-old won the title three times in his illustrious career and was surprised Rosberg didn’t want to defend his crown. He said things were different in his day, when backing up the following season was just as important as winning the trophy in the first place.
“(Back in my time) I definitely wanted to defend my title. It was a challenge to have No. 1 on the car and to beat the opposition again,” Lauda said.
“In fact it was the most important thing to defend the title. You only wanted to be champion to do that.
“Nico chose to go down a different path, he always wanted to. The problem is he never gave any signs that these were his plans. This is why it took us by surprise.”
Lauda told Gazzetta dello Sport he “took it badly” when he found out about Rosberg’s retirement, as did everyone else in the Mercedes garage.
“Rosberg’s decision has left us disorientated and unprepared, and all those who contributed to Nico winning the world title took it very badly,” he said.
Rosberg initially informed only a handful of people — including his great rival Hamilton — before telling the world of his decision ahead of the FIA’s annual awards ceremony in Vienna.
“Now we have to consider all options, but it will be very hard to replace him,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. “We will start to look at this on Monday.
“For the team, this is an unexpected situation but also an exciting one. We are going into a new era of technical regulations and there is a free Mercedes cockpit for the seasons ahead. We will take the necessary time to evaluate our options and then find the right path for our future.
“This is a brave decision by Nico and testament to the strength of his character. He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as world champion, having achieved his childhood dream. The clarity of his judgement meant I accepted his decision straight away when he told me.”
Rosberg, who becomes the first reigning F1 champion to retire since Alain Prost in 1993, has revealed he is looking forward to the next chapter of his life with wife Vivian and their one-year-old daughter Alaia.