Head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport Toto Wolff has paid tribute to Nico Rosberg after the Silver Arrows stalwart announced his shock retirement from Formula One. Such a surprising decision was confirmed on Friday (2 December), just five days after the German had banished the memory of back-to-back disappointments to claim his first world title courtesy of a five-point buffer over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
"Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target," he wrote in an official statement released via Facebook. "And now I've made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right."
Rosberg is the third big-name driver set to retire from the grid this summer, with Williams veteran Felipe Massa bowing out after 11 years and 2009 champion Jenson Button, who was already set to enjoy a sabbatical next season, bringing the curtain down on his 305-race career with an early retirement in Abu Dhabi.
"This is a brave decision by Nico and testament to the strength of his character," said Wolff, appearing alongside Rosberg at the FIA Prize Giving press conference in Vienna. "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.
"It's impossible to capture the essence of a person in a few short words. But Nico has a special combination of natural talent and fighting spirit that have brought him to where he is today.
"Throughout his career, people have thought he was on a golden path to success just because his father was a world champion; in fact, I think in some ways that made the challenge greater - and meant he had to fight even harder with the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
"With Mercedes, Nico has been a relentless competitor, bouncing back from tough times in an inspirational way, and he earned the respect of the sport with his tenacity, his fighting spirit and his grace under pressure. Since 2010, he has poured competitive energy into our team and we have grown stronger because of it. We simply say 'thank you' for the incredible contribution he has made to our success, alongside two of the all-time great drivers, Michael [Schumacher] and Lewis."
Rosberg's abrupt announcement has certainly attracted a strong showing of support from the rest of the F1 paddock and fans/pundits alike, although Hamilton has yet to officially have his say...