Nico Rosberg describes himself as having an addictive personality. For 21 years, that trait manifested itself in motor racing, leading him to Formula One in 2006 and the World Championship title in 2016. Then, in a move that shocked the sport, he quit without warning. Aged just 31, Rosberg walked away from F1 to embark on a new life – one that promises to present very different challenges from those encountered while racing Lewis Hamilton at 322kph.
Although he’s still considering his next move, Rosberg is certain that his F1 experience will set him up well for his second career. His interest in innovation and entrepreneurship recently led him to visit Silicon Valley and meet staff from companies including Tesla, Waymo and ChargePoint. WIRED asked him what lessons he’s learned from competing for a championship-winning team, and how he plans to carry those lessons into the next chapter of his professional life.
“Making your own mistakes is the only way to learn. My dad [1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg] was very involved with my early career. He provided a guiding hand all the way and was my number-one fan, but after my first year in F1 he completely stepped back. He didn’t come to my races any more. We had a discussion and decided that would probably be the better way to go about it – for me to make my own mistakes and just get on with it. That freed me up; it was very smart of him. It was very difficult for him to let go, too – he was the expert, but now he had to accept that his son would make all the mistakes that he’d already made.”
“The F1 experience was better than any university. It was hands-on, at the pinnacle of an extremely competitive and innovative sport, where so much money is involved. It has been extremely valuable from a personal-development perspective, too. If I look at where I am now compared to ten years ago, there’s been a phenomenal change. I’ve learned how to behave, how to be among people and how to work together. That’s all going to be extremely valuable going forward. If you want success, the art of delegation and choosing the right people are both super-important. That’s a huge challenge and I feel I’ve made a lot of progress there.”
“Now, it’s a total change. I’d had 21 years of racing, of dedicating my life to it. For me, this was the perfect thing to do – to walk out on an absolute high, having achieved everything I set out to. It just feels right. Before, the F1 calendar was my boss, but now I’m my own boss. That makes a big difference. It’s a good feeling. It’s exciting and I feel very much alive. I’m looking at going to university and recently visited Stanford. I’d like to study short courses in the leadership and entrepreneurship area. I’ve never been a CEO, but I’ve been at the top of an F1 team for seven years, and I was part of the leadership that won the World Championship. I picked up so much during those years, so I have a good understanding of what it takes.”
“F1 is energy-consuming. The amount of focus and attention you need to bring is out of this world, so simplifying my life worked really well for me. I got rid of all the unnecessary stuff. That helped to extract that little bit of extra energy when needed and to cope better with the massive stress.”
Five minutes with Nico Rosberg
- What time do you usually get up?
- Lately it’s been 6.40am, because that’s when my daughter starts crying.
- What’s your worst habit?
- The worst one is my smartphone addiction. I’m going to get rid of it and buy myself an old-school Nokia.
- How do you maintain your relationships away from work?
- WhatsApp with friends, FaceTime with family.
- How do you handle stress?
- I’ve worked on meditation and all that kind of stuff. In the end, I really believe that it comes down to simplifying your life during stressful periods.
- What time of the day is the most productive for you?
- Late afternoons. I struggle to get going in the morning.
- Do you have a set bedtime?
- I have to, because I get up at 6.40am. So I need to be in bed by 10.30pm.
“I’m very lucky because I have a lovely family and it gives me a powerful base for my life. It brings a lot of happiness. Family and friends are super important. We work our asses off and, although being with family and friends is the best thing in the world, we actually spend very little time with them.”
“I’ve always been interested in innovation and technology, and this is a fascinating time for mobility. Silicon Valley has always been on my bucket list, which I’m working through at the moment, I recently had the opportunity to see some of the magic that happens there. It’s the global centre of innovation, with so much intelligence in one place. It was very special.”
“Electric cars will revolutionise our planet. Once we sort out the infrastructure of how to feed energy into them and we’re making more use of solar and wind, it will be a big benefit. It’s normal that car manufacturers want to be involved, and Formula E will be the showcase. I’m watching with interest.”
“I love motorsports, so I would love to be involved in some way in the future. The important thing is to remain open-minded. Opportunities are arising all the time, and I have a lot to offer with my experience and what I have achieved. But the racing chapter is closed. I want to focus on the intellectual side in the next phase, rather than the physical.”