Days after he was crowned F1 champion, Nico Rosberg called it quits. Shocking! For the Mercedes-Benz team managers, just when they experienced the high of a one-two (Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton) sweep, it’s a brisk goodbye. It’s like Leonardo de Caprio bagging an Oscar then saying adios. Or Adele topping the Billboards chart then never singing again. Or Bjorn Borg, age 26, walking away from tennis.
Wait, the last sentence came true. But before we talk about the Swede, let’s analyze the German’s move. Only 31, why would anyone want to retire this young?
“Lewis Hamilton lost the battle but won the war,” Kevin Eason of The Times wrote. “He dominated Nico Rosberg from karting to the ultimate in Formula 1 and when the German finally won his world championship, the strain was so great that he had to walk away from the sport.”
Rosberg admits to the overbearing pressure, saying: “It was unbelievably intense. It is indescribable the last four races. It was my championship to lose and the last race was the toughest thing I have ever done – except from watching my wife suffer through the birth of our daughter. That was a whole another level!”
He’s also reached the Mt. Summit of motor-racing and, once you ascend the world’s tallest peak, there’s nothing higher to climb.
“Since I was six years old when I started out the dream was very clear – that was becoming a Formula 1 world champion. That is what I pursued all along, and it is mission accomplished for me. I’ve done it,” Rosberg said. “It is a dream come true – and now I move on to other things. Let’s see what the future holds – I will follow my heart.”
Rosberg is not the first athlete to retire young and at his peak. Magic Johnson was 32 when he left the NBA. His, of course, was a different story as he was diagnosed with HIV. Rocky Marciano was another. After winning 49 of 49 fights (with 43 knockouts), he stopped at the age of 32. Sadly, 13 years later, he died from a plane crash. Isiah Thomas also quit at 32 after leading the Detroit Pistons to NBA crowns. Yao Ming, plagued with injury, quit at 30. But to me the most bizarre was Bjorn Borg’s stoppage at 26. Imagine how many more majors he would have added (to his 11) had he played for, say, 10 more years. He’d handily be the greatest netter in history.
With Rosberg, I’m sure he’ll be back. After the gloss of the F1 trophy has faded and his competitive juices start revving his heart and blood stream, he’ll return. This time, for sure, not paired with Lewis.