Over five years after Nico Rosberg retired from Formula One, Mercedes strategy director James Vowles remains puzzled as to why the German decided to quit the sport just after winning the 2016 World Championship.
That season saw an intense title fight between Rosberg and his Mercedes team-mate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, which went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.
Shortly after winning the 2016 F1 World Drivers’ Championship, Rosberg retired from the pinnacle of motorsport and said he made the decision as he had achieved his ultimate goal in the sport.
Speaking on the Beyond The Grid podcast, Vowles said Rosberg’s retirement caught him by surprise – and he still doesn’t entirely understand why the German decided to walk away from Mercedes and Formula One.
Asked by podcast host Tom Clarkson if he was surprised by Rosberg’s retirement, Vowles replied: “Yeah, because Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] called us into the office and we didn’t really know what to expect.
“But, if Toto said list five things that I might be about to say, Nico retiring wasn’t on that list. And it was just, you know, a bizarre moment.
“And even now, it’s quite hard to work out why he asked to be released from his contract, because even if he wasn’t going to beat Lewis again, he was in a good car, he would be winning races, and part of a team that was doing something amazing.
“But there must have been some very personal reasons for it and he had obviously achieved what he wanted to. So, yeah, big, big shock,” he added.