Nico Rosberg caused quite the stir when he retired from Formula 1 a mere five days after winning the 2016 championship for Mercedes. Since then, family life, growing his business empire, television work and running the Rosberg X Racing Extreme E team has taken up most of his time.
He’s not really indulged in his past life, save for a couple of demonstrations in his old office at Goodwood and Monaco in 2017 and ‘18 respectively. But recently he got back behind the wheel of a racing car again, and this time it wasn’t a trip down memory lane in a Silver Arrow.
Rosberg is, of course, no stranger to Extreme E. His RXR squad has been a dominant force since the series’ inception, winning all but one race and the maiden championship title. But the 23-time grand prix winner’s perspective of the all-electric off-road competition has been that of a relative outsider until recently when he hopped behind the wheel of his team’s Odyssey 21 at the Nurburgring.
“I tell you what, this is awesome stuff!” Rosberg told DirtFish after getting out of the car, “you have no idea, this is incredible, because it was my first experience with an off-road car like that.
“For me, it’s amazing how every time I’m surprised how it’s just like riding a bicycle. I get back in, and my brain switches into some kind of other mode, I don’t know what it is, and it’s just pedal to the metal, let’s go, no holding back, flat out.
“The crazy thing is, this car is really a tank. But in a good way. It can take anything, you can just fly over anything and you don’t even feel it, so it’s incredible.”
Rosberg’s test was his first public outing in an off-road racer. But his only preconceived ideas and expectations revolved around him, and not the vehicle.
“The expectation, as always, was ‘am I going to be able to drive this in anger? Am I going to be able to control the car? I am going to be risking to have a crash?’ But when I got in, it was all gone and I was fully in control.
“It felt great and I feel like I’ve been doing it all my life, which I have in a way, but not this rally car.”
While he was incredibly enthusiastic about his experience in a new kind of racing car, Rosberg isn’t entertaining the idea of a comeback just yet. At least not full-on racing.
“No no no no,” he insisted. “It’s tempted me into driving a bit more sometimes, and especially trying some off-road stuff but not a comeback.
“I’m really enjoying this new role of being a team boss because it’s a different challenge, but still of course racing and still with a will to win and that’s really exciting. To work with these drivers, picking the drivers, it’s really exciting.”
After getting some unexpected seat time, Rosberg now dons his team boss hat once again as RXR gears up for Extreme E’s upcoming Sardinia doubleheader.
It’s an unusual event, the result of a rescheduling influenced by its location on a military base and the Ukraine war, but Rosberg isn’t expecting the intensive schedule of two race weekends in five days to be too much of a hindrance.
“I think it’ll be pretty easy to do one ‘week’, have a little break, a reflect, a learn, and go right into the next one. I think it will be easy,” he said.
“Of course, it’s just because of Ukraine that there’s this delay and then the compacting of two races. It wasn’t the initial plan but everybody is affected by the war and we also have to deal with it as a championship and that’s OK.”