Nico Rosberg shocked the Formula 1 world by announcing his retirement from the sport, five days after the German won his first world title, but his decision is borne from contentment in the fulfilment of his goal.
It’s almost unprecedented, isn’t it? A professional sportsman achieving his lifelong ambition (at a relatively young age) only to retire immediately after is not the career path we come to expect from such figures. Generally, the decision of a sportsman to retire is almost forced, brought about by the gradual realisation of inadequacy, or the crippling desolation of a serious injury.
However, Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from Formula 1 goes against the grain. Fresh from his first world title victory on Sunday, in which he pipped his Mercedes teammate and rival Lewis Hamilton to the post, Rosberg has shocked fans by announcing that he is quitting the sport that has enveloped his whole life up until this point.
“I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right,” said Rosberg, rather poetically, on his decision. In a way, it’s hard to argue with his thought-process. He has never been the most ‘famous’ of Formula 1 drivers, so often dwelling in the shadows of the likes of Schumacher and Hamilton at Mercedes, drivers deemed more marketable, more fashionable if you will. This year’s title win was a coming of age, a final fulfilment of his racing potential and his career goal.
Fans may argue that his decision shows a lack of ambition. They’ll say that Rosberg, having made it to the top, should battle to stay there, and fight to cement his place among the sport’s greats. But where does this expectation come from? Why is it that we expect sports stars to continuously match past achievements, before being thrown upon the scrap heap when they become too old and sluggish to live up to such unattainable expectations?
To use an example, Roger Federer has won all there is to win in tennis, but still he plods on, battling injuries that had never troubled him before. Yes, he plays because he ‘loves what he does’ but surely that love must diminish when you know you can’t perform as well as you have before. Federer will of course go down as one of the greats, but for many sportsmen, the decline and degradation of their careers in its latter years is what defines their legacy.
For Rosberg, this will never be the case. He will be remembered as the 2016 Formula 1 champion, and if that is good enough for him, then who are we to argue with that decision? It’s not as if money will be an issue for Rosberg, his salary at Mercedes was a reported $15m dollars a year, which is in fact significantly lower than teammate Lewis Hamilton. Winning a world title takes years of dedication and hard work. Rosberg is 31 and has a young family, so having achieved his goal in racing, he is more than justified in his decision.
Yes, it’s every sportsman’s dream to make it to the top, but so often their desire to stay there can lead them to forget what the thrill of that first success tasted like. Rosberg has climbed his mountain and conquered it. Having admired the view for a while, he’s decided to take the cable-car back down, rather than descend the rocky, obstacle-laden facade that claims the careers of so many sports stars desperate to outdo themselves time and time again.