2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg has revealed that Mercedes asked him to make a stunning return to the team in 2020 when Sir Lewis Hamilton contracted COVID-19.
A week after the Bahrain Grand Prix, Formula 1 was to stay at the Sakhir International Circuit and take to the shorter layout of the track.
In between the two races, however, Hamilton tested positive for coronavirus, meaning that Mercedes needed a driver to replace him.
Rosberg retired weeks after his dramatic title success – to which he defeated Hamilton – at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As a result, he was hurriedly replaced by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas while Felipe Massa opted to remain at the Williams team for another year having been set to retire conjointly with Rosberg.
Mercedes ultimately selected George Russell – their junior driver racing for Williams at the time – as Hamilton’s replacement for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, as Rosberg turned down their offer.
Russell very nearly snatched pole position from Bottas in a mightily impressive qualifying performance.
He would then lead much of the race and was twice on course for victory, before a botched pit stop and then a slow puncture heartbreakingly sent him down to ninth at the end of what was looking like a dream day for the 23-year-old.
Now, over a year after the race, Rosberg says that before Mercedes chose Russell, they spoke to him.
“I thought about it,” Rosberg said in a podcast with Antenne Bayern.
The 36-year-old admits that he would not have been physically able to get back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, having spent several years out of the sport.
“I certainly don’t have a chance to race more than three laps. My arms would stop working and my neck would fall between my legs,” he explained.
“I don’t have those muscles anymore,” he added.