VIENNA • Nico Rosberg quit Formula One yesterday, just five days after winning the world title for Mercedes in a move that stunned motor racing.
The 31-year-old, who beat off team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the finale, is the first reigning champion to quit since Alain Prost in 1993.
The German made the revelation in Vienna ahead of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) annual awards ceremony.
"I have decided to end my Formula One career here," said Rosberg, who claimed the title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday when he finished second to Hamilton.
He wrote on Facebook that he started thinking about retiring after he won at Suzuka in early October and realised a world title was within his grasp.
"I've climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right," he added. "My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen."
NOTHING LIKE BEFORE
I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before.
NICO ROSBERG, Mercedes' newly crowned world champion, on the tough and mentally draining F1 season which ended in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.
Rosberg said that he had almost made the decision by the morning of the season-ending Abu Dhabi race and that the process had cleared his head.
He made a final call the day after winning the title. "It was a process on Monday," he said. "I didn't know if I had the b***s, and I took a bit of time. But I am done. End of story, and the next step is being a dad and a husband and I am very much looking forward to that."
The first people he told were his wife and manager, and then the team, via the team's head, Toto Wolff.
"Toto understood. He knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me. My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people."
His battle with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton dominated the season, after he had lost the 2014 and 2015 world title to the Briton. Hamilton overcame engine problems to push Rosberg to the last race but could not overhaul the German, who admitted he found the fight difficult.
"This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough," wrote Rosberg. "I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too - it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target."
Wolff said: "For the team this is an unexpected situation and an exciting one.
"This is a brave decision by Nico and testament to the strength of his character. He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as world champion, having achieved his childhood dream."
Wolff said Rosberg's "relentless" drive and "inspirational way" of fighting adversity, mixed with his "tenacity and grace under pressure" had earned him "the respect of the sport".
Rosberg takes his leave of Formula One with 23 race wins and 30 pole positions. He is now relinquishing life in the fast lane to spend time with his wife, his childhood sweetheart Vivian Sibold with whom he has a daughter, Alaia, born in August last year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN