(I’ve been procrastinating writing this. But then of course everything changed in a blink of an eye last December 2, so it got fast-tracked. Here goes nothing…)
Let me begin by saying that you are not one of my absolute favorites in Formula One. I’m just keeping it real.
But allow me to explain myself, if I may:
I liked you well enough when you burst into the F1 scene in 2006, but by that time my heart was already starting to invest in a certain “Baby Schumi” named Sebastian Vettel, and for some reason, I found you too polished, too privileged, too…slick for my liking. I prefer drivers with an “edge” to them, and you looked straight out of the perfect, pretty, prep school boys’ catalog.
You had the blessing and the curse of being a son of a Formula One World Champion. Will you ever live up to his name or are you all hype? I expected you to do well in F1, to cause a stir just enough and get a few wins here and there; but I didn’t really peg you to be The Next Best Thing. It’s weird because I knew from your racing CV that you’re talented; I just never saw enough spark and hunger in you back then.
Or maybe I should have looked at you more closely.
You spent years as one of the midfield racers, occasionally showing moments of brilliance but never really bothering the top dogs. Vettel and Hamilton easily shoved you aside to grab and share the spotlight that was supposed to be yours. You had podiums and fastest laps, and made exciting moves every now and then, but it wasn’t until you moved to Mercedes to partner the returning Michael Schumacher when I started to really “see” you. I fully expected Schumi to trounce you, but surprisingly, you came out ahead of the matchup, even giving Mercedes their first win of their “new” era. It’s not an easy task to regularly beat a driver of Schumacher’s caliber, but instead of being annoyed, I found myself getting fascinated by your progress. Who is this Rosberg I’m seeing that I was all but oblivious to during his Williams years?
As fate would have it, you were the first ever F1 driver I met in person. You exceeded my expectations, by the way. I was just curious to see you at first but I ended up staying at the event to try to get an autograph. You were nice, and kind, and sweet to us waiting fans. And yes, I have to admit that I was shocked at how good-looking you are in the flesh. But mostly, what I remember is how you treated us fans and how you made us feel. You even apologized to all the other fans who didn’t get to have your signature because you quickly got whisked away by security to your car. Not necessary, but appreciated, nevertheless. All the other fans who’ve met you only have good words to say about you, and that speaks volumes. No wonder your fans are extremely loyal and overprotective of you. I met you again in 2015 and you were as nice and pleasant as ever, you even joked and laughed with me about my bracelet that you mistook for something else. That is why from that 2012 moment on, you jumped from relative obscurity to become my “favorite non-favorite”. Does that even make sense? What the heck, you’re smart, I know you’ll get what I mean.
I am not a Hamilton fan, so when he moved to Mercedes to take over the seat Schumi vacated, I had hoped you’ll continue your good form and show him who’s the boss at Silver Arrows. But fate had other ideas, and although Mercedes skyrocketed to ruthless dominance, Lewis got the better of you. I went, “Where is the Nico that turned me around? Why is he getting sucked into the drama and the mindgames?” I vividly remember getting confused by all the frustration I feel on your behalf.
2014 and 2015 were awful. I wanted you to win the Championship so badly even I surprised myself. That electrical issue during Singapore 2014? I internally wilted. That infamous gust of wind in Austin 2015? I chanelled my inner Tyra Banks and yelled, “I was rooting for you! How dare you?!” at my TV. Do your critics have a point when they say you lack the psychological strength to become F1 Champion? I refused to believe it, despite your snafus and the injustices you suffered. I knew you had it in you. Somewhere in that blonde, polished mien, I knew there’s grit and hardiness that’s waiting to be unleashed.
And you turned it all around. Quietly. Masterfully. I believed yet I still greatly underestimated your bouncebackability and you proved me wrong. Tenacity? Check. Patience? Check. Consistency? Check. Grace under pressure? Check.
You fought back and never gave up on yourself. Amidst a barrage of criticism and blatant bias from fans and media, you revealed what you’re truly made of. When practically most expected you to wither and choke, you stepped up and delivered. The moment you crossed that finish line in Abu Dhabi was the moment you slayed all doubts and slaughtered your own demons in one fell swoop.
I was so proud of you then. So ridiculously proud of you.
And then of course you dropped that certain retirement bombshell–5 days after you won your 1st F1 title. What. The. Heck?!
I was suffering an almighty migraine that night and I remember looking at my mobile phone screen, staring at the words, “Nico Rosberg announces his retirement” and willing them to go away or be some kind of a twisted joke. But alas, it was the cold, hard truth. A myriad of questions from my brain demanded immediate answers: Is he ill? Was this predetermined? Who knew about this? But the biggest question was, “WHY?”
To be honest, I was half-astonished and half-annoyed. The annoyance stemmed from my selfish part: Who would challenge Lewis now? Why didn’t you want the honor and privilege of defending your title? Why did you not give your fans a chance to bid you a proper goodbye?!
Finally, your official statement was released, and although it was expectedly eloquent and heartfelt, it lacked the answers the selfish part of me needed. However, I was truly touched by your words and I legitimately wanted to shed tears by the end of it.
You’re truly something else, Mr. Nico Erik Rosberg. Just when I think I have you all figured out, you come out with ways to surprise me further.
How can I fault you when you say that you are retiring to prioritize your family? How can I stay mad at someone who listened to what their heart is saying and followed the path they wanted, and not just what others expected? There is immense bravery in realizing that at times, quitting is necessary in order to truly win.
What a way to distinguish yourself from other F1 Champions. Chapeau.
I still can’t wrap my head around it, but one day, I will wake up and accept that you won’t be in F1 starting next season. And that for the first time in 23 years, F1 won’t have a defending Champion on the grid. It sucks to lose one of the good guys, but that’s the reality me and millions of other fans just have to deal with.
On behalf of my 2006 Self, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize to you, Nico. I’m so sorry. I was wrong. So wrong to judge you and to stereotype you back then.
You had one hell of a rollercoaster ride in F1. You chased your ultimate dream to the edge of madness and succeeded. In a circus-like world where the narratives were almost always not to your advantage, you took control of your own storyline. Nobody can take away what you have achieved. Ever.
You may not be one of my absolute favorites, but know that you are one of the F1 personalities I truly admire and respect. You’ve made me a fan. I AM a fan. I will truly miss you in F1.
Any chance you can do a World Tour any time soon so your fans can give you a proper farewell, by the way? Please consider. You are always welcome to visit the Philippines.
Now go on and enjoy life outside of Formula One. Cherish your amazing parents and your incredible wife and daughter. Spend time with your wonderful friends. There’s still so much ahead for you and I can’t wait to find out what you have up your sleeves in the future.
You are a fighter, a gentleman, and a class act. You are and always will be a worthy Champion, not just in racing, but in Life.