NICO ROSBERG RETIRES
WHEN: DECEMBER 2 WHERE: FIA PRIZE GIVING,VIENNA
Nobody saw this coming. And we really mean nobody.
The post-abu Dhabi Grand Prix headlines were written, and they were predominantly about Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton has an uncanny ability to attract attention, and news of his possible punishment for doing nothing more than essentially being a racing driver with a winning mentality nearly overshadowed Nico Rosberg’s maiden title success.
But then, a few days later, Rosberg hit back with his own mammoth headline. And it was easily the biggest one of the year, if not the decade. ‘Rosberg retires as world champion’. It was a bolt out of the blue, and an approach we’ve never seen before in F1. Yes, Alain Prost did a similar thing after winning his fourth world title in 1993 with Williams. But by that point the Frenchman was 38 and the sport’s most successful driver in terms of titles at the time.
Rosberg is only 31, and many say had perhaps the best years of his career ahead of him with the dominant Silver Arrows team.
But, in reality, Rosberg just wasn’t up for doing it all again. Things changed when he and his wife Vivian had their first child in August. Rosberg’s priorities changed, and in his mind it became simply all about this season.
“This year took everything, I pushed like crazy in every direction after the disappointments of the last two years, but of course that had an impact on the ones I love,” said Rosberg.
“It was a whole family sacrifice, we put everything behind our target. Vivian understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, so I put the championship first while she did everything, looking after our daughter.
“But now I’ve climbed the mountain, and this feels right. I went into Abu Dhabi thinking secretly that it would be my last race and I took my decision on Monday, by following my heart. The first person I told was Vivian.
“I’m not willing to give the commitment of this year again, and I’m not interested in coming fourth. I want to win, but I’m not interested to do it all again. I don’t want to do it all again.”
With a team-mate as fierce as Hamilton already gearing up for next season in his quest for a fourth world crown, Rosberg knew it would require an even higher level of dedication and performance to defend the title. And at this stage of his life, he wasn’t prepared to commit to it. It was a classy move to bow out on top. While Rosberg’s decision not to defend his title has drawn some criticism, it has been outshone by the far greater warm reception to his actions, from people who realise that there sometimes is more to life than simply driving around in circles.
Rosberg has achieved his aim, and has now also ensured that he will go down in history as a driver whose decisions stood out from the crowd. RL
the first meeting, which obviously for the championship meant that I was basically out of it before I had even started.
“The biggest thing then was getting to grips with the car,” admits Dorlin. “It’s a massive step going from a Saxo to the Clios; you’re going from basically road tyres to full slicks, and you’re doubling the horsepower and have a sequential gearbox – it’s a proper little race car. It’s cliched, but you really have to grab those things by the scruff of the neck. Once I’d mastered that, and with help from Ed Pead, Westbourne’s driver coach, I was able to settle down.”
If that was an impressive year, 2016 has to go down as a standout campaign. Dorlin started with a double win at Oulton Park, and despite losing the lead of the championship for a round, quickly bounced back. Finishing the year with eight wins, and beating guest drivers like touring car regular Josh Cook, Dorlin claimed the title from closest rival Brett Lidsey with a race to spare.
“The first meeting at Oulton Park was a highlight – starting the season off with two poles, two wins, and two fastest laps; that was pretty good,” says Dorlin. “But the Silverstone round stands out, where I won the championship. All year it was very close between me and Brett. At every meeting I’ve had to go out focused and make sure I was staying up within the points or trying to beat Brett.
“It was always going to be tight because there wasn’t a big gap between us. I felt fairly confident because of the wins I’d had, and because my lead was about 20 points. But it’s still 32 points for a win, so a DNF would have left me out of it.
“I messed the start up from pole in the first race and dropped to fifth or sixth, and Brett was leading. That was when the red mist could have come down, but I took it steady for the first lap and then got into it and started to pick them up one by one and before I knew it, I was chasing Brett down.
“If I stayed where I was, I’d win the championship – so I just sat on the back of his tail all the way round and brought it back.”
That success, and his stellar record previously, has catapulted Dorlin towards the public eye. Growing interest is something he says he’s prepared for as best he can, having started to immerse himself in the world of British Touring Cars.
“I’m at a point now where I know quite a few [British] touring car drivers. I’ve started to get more and more interest, and it’s what we all want – hopefully if we can continue moving in the right direction and get onto the TOCA package, that interest will continue into next year and just take each one as it comes.”
A likely campaign in the Renault UK Clio Cup is expected next year ( see Racing News), but beyond continuing his historic racing outings ( see sidebar), racing in the pinnacle of motorsport in the UK – the British Touring Car Championship – is a significant, but palpable, goal.
“It’s definitely doable, [especially] if we can carry on the way we have been – aiming to be in the championship battle every year, which will obviously help to raise my profile,” he says. “I don’t want to jump the gun or anything, a lot depends on how next year goes as well. But I’ll always do the best I can and see where we go.” ■