Nico Rosberg has announced that he is retiring from Formula 1 less than a week after being crowned world champion.
The 31-year-old German took the racing world by surprise with a Facebook post saying he was leaving the sport.
“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion,” he said.
“Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target.
“And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right.”
The decision means that there will no world champion defending their title on the grid, the first time since 1994.
Rosberg won nine of this season’s 21 Grands Prix, beating three-time champion Lewis Hamilton by five points in the final race in Abu Dhabi last weekend. The season had been marked by intense rivalry between the two Mercedes drivers and speculation will now inevitably turn to who will replace him and partner Hamilton next season.
Rosberg is not the first driver to retire after achieving the ultimate prize. In 1958 Mike Hawthorn announced his retirement immediately after winning the Monaco Grand Prix and claiming the world championship. More recently Alain Prost retired as Formula 1 champion at the end of the 1993 season.
Rosberg’s announcement marks the end of a gilded career: the son of world champion Keke, he grew up in Monaco and attended a smart international school. He speaks five languages and made his F1 debut for Williams at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2006, finishing seventh and famously set the fastest lap of the race.
Toto Wolff said: “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.
“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.”
Nico and Keke, ahead of his prize test with Williams in 2002 having won the German Formula BMW title
History made – Rosberg scores fastest lap on debut, Bahrain, 2006
His first podium – Australia 2008
A home Grand Prix, in a Mercedes – Hockenheim 2010
His first win, China 2012
The dream departure – 2016 World Champion, and into the sunset of retirement