Rosberg retirement stuns F1 world

Nico Rosberg has stunned the motor racing world by announcing his retirement from the sport, just five days after winning the World Championship.

Rosberg says he made the decision on Monday evening, after partying until 9am that morning and flying to Kuala Lumpur for a PR event. He announced it at a press conference ahead of tonight’s FIA Awards in Vienna.

His decision leaves Mercedes with the difficult task of replacing him, although it obviously has Pascal Wehrlein on hand as a back-up. Getting a big name driver out of an existing contract looks like being a tricky task.

Here is Rosberg’s full official statement.

Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion,” he said. “Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.

This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough. 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. I cannot find enough words to thank my wife Vivian; she has been incredible. She understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, and created the space for me to get full recovery between every race, looking after our daughter each night, taking over when things got tough and putting our championship first.

When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion. On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start. I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life. I took my decision on Monday evening. After reflecting for a day, the first people I told were Vivian and Georg [Nolte, from Nico’s management team], followed by Toto.

The only thing that makes this decision in any way difficult for me is because I am putting my racing family into a tough situation. But 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, the Silver Arrows.

Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment. There is time to savour the next weeks, to reflect on the season and to enjoy every experience that comes my way. After that, I will turn the next corner in my life and see what it has in store for me…”

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Seven dates moved as FIA confirms revised 20-race F1 schedule

As expected the World Motor Sport Council has issued a definitive 2017 F1 schedule that features just 20 races, with the German GP missing after Bernie Ecclestone failed to do a deal with either Hockenheim or the new Nurburgring owners.

Because Germany has gone Hungary has moved back a week as expected to the former German date, and Austria and Silverstone have now also moved by a week, which in turn allows Baku to move to avoid a clash with Le Mans. Thus unlike this year Baku will not involve a frantic rush straight from Montreal.

As predicted Malaysia and Singapore have swapped since the provisional schedule was issued, so that they run like this year, with Singapore on its own and Malaysia back-to-back with Japan. Similarly Mexico has been moved back a week so that it is back-to-back with Austin, as was the case this year.

2017 FIA F1 World Championship

March 26 Australia (Melbourne)

April 9 China (Shanghai)

April 16 Bahrain (Sakhir)

April 30 Russia (Sochi)

May 14 Spain (Barcelona)

May 28 Monaco (Monaco)

June 11 Canada (Montreal)

June 25 Azerbaijan (Baku)

July 9 Austria (Spielberg)

July 16 Britain (Silverstone)

July 30 Hungary (Budapest)

August 27 Belgium (Spa)

September 3 Italy (Monza)

September 17 Singapore (Marina Bay)

October 1 Malaysia (Sepang)

October 8 Japan (Suzuka)

October 22 USA (Austin)

October 29 Mexico (Mexico City)

November 12 Brazil (Sao Paulo)

November 26 Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

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Jenson Button: “I don’t want to be racing in 2018”

Jenson Button is adamant that he sees the Abu Dhabi GP as his last F1 race – despite McLaren leaving the door open for 2018.

Although Button’s future plans were presented in Monza as a “sabbatical”, with a possible return in should he decide that F1 was unfinished business, it’s become increasingly clear in recent weeks that he doesn’t see himself ever coming back.

First of all I go into this thinking it’s going to be my last race,” he said today. “I think that’s the best way to be and at this moment in time I don’t want to be racing Formula One past this race, and that’s the whole idea. Anyway, I think of this as my last race and hopefully everyone else does as well.”

Asked if his thinking had changed since Monza he said: “Nothing’s changed. I’ve just gone into this last race thinking that it is my last. I don’t want to go into this race thinking that it’s not my last and it is my last. It is true that I have a contract for 2018 but at this moment in time I don’t want to be racing in 2018.

But the whole idea about having a contract was that in three months’ time, when I’ve eaten myself stupid and I’m thinking of things to do in the future and I feel like I need Formula One back in my life, but at this moment in time that isn’t the case. So this is my last race, that’s the way I think about it at the moment, but who knows that could change in six months, eight months, one year.”

Meanwhile reflecting on his career Button said he’d achieved all he could have wished for,

It’s been a long journey. Since eight years old until now I’ve been racing in motorsport and everything before Formula One was work to try and get to Formula One. You get to Formula One with many dreams and you aspire to be something and hopefully you leave the sport with memories. That’s something I definitely do have from my 17 years of racing in Formula One. Lots of amazing memories, lots of life-changing memories – some good, some bad – and also to walk away with the world championship is a very special feeling as well. To race with two of the teams that I dreamt of racing with when I was a kid – Williams and McLaren – and when I did win the world championship it was with a privateer team, which I think is also pretty special.

Obviously a very memorable year of my life and in the future it’s something I’ll hopefully be telling my grandchildren all about, how we came from nothing and we ended up winning the world championship. There are so many memories that I can’t put them all out on the table right now, but that’s a small snippet of my career. Over 300 grands prix. I will definitely step away from Formula One happy with what I’ve achieved and knowing that my life really does start now.”

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Brown takes up new McLaren role

American Zak Brown has been appointed executive director of McLaren Technology Group as the company restructures after Ron Dennis lost his chairman and CEO role.

Brown, who will start his new job in December, had also been considering an offer to join the F1 organisation, having been tipped as a possible successor to Bernie Ecclestone.

McLaren says that together with COO Jonathan Neale “Brown will will jointly lead the businesses as part of the first step in the Group’s transition to a new and strengthened organisational structure. The process of identifying and recruiting a new Group Chief Executive Officer will continue.” He will report to the company’s executive committee.

Brown’s JMI organisation, which is also active in NASCAR, has worked with McLaren on a number of commercial deals, including Johnnie Walker, GSK, Hilton, Lenovo, Chandon and NTT.

Brown has raced extensively himself, and his car collection includes a McLaren-Mercedes that he regularly samples on track.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for what the business has achieved to date,” said Brown. “And I look forward to contributing to the next important phase in its development. Having worked closely with McLaren for many years, I’ve been struck by the talent and ambition of the entire workforce, and I very much look forward to complementing the business’s many existing strengths, and building on them to drive future success in everything we do.”

Best of all, in my new role I’ll be able to combine my absolute passion with my unparalleled area of expertise – respectively motorsport and marketing – while ensuring that the two stay totally aligned.”

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Ericsson finally confirmed at Sauber for 2017

Sauber has finally confirmed that Marcus Ericsson will stay on for 2017 after the Swede was unable to land an alternative seat elsewhere.

Although his sponsors are also the new owners of Sauber, he had he possibility to move elsewhere if it was a step up.

Felipe Nasr remains favourite for the other seat, assuming his sponsorship comes through, although a return for Esteban Gutierrez is an unlilley outside bet. The team would only says that the second driver “will be announced in due course.” Ericsson believes that the team will make progress next year.

I have spent two years with Sauber now, and I really feel at home,” said Ericsson. “A big thanks to everyone within the team for trusting in me again. From a personal point of view, I have developed a lot as a driver during my time at Sauber. We have had ups and downs, but we always stick together and work as hard as we can.

Since the new ownership, there has been a positive push in the team, so it will also be exciting to go into this new era. Many motorsport experts are becoming part of Sauber, which is a good sign for the future. For 2017 my aim is to build on my performance from the second half of this season, and to continue working hard with the team. I cannot wait for the 2017 season, so that we can make our way up to the midfield with the objective to score points on a regular basis.”

During the current season Marcus has again showed he is willing to go that extra mile in order to make progress,” said Monisha Kaltenborn. “He went through very difficult times with us, but managed those very well. In the last two years, he has made significant steps in regards to his personal development, proving his skills on as well as off track, especially when circumstances are not easy.

He is not only a good driver, but also an important team player who understands how to work with the team and how to motivate everyone with his positive attitude. Formula One goes into a new era in 2017, and I am confident that we can count on Marcus to bring the team back into the competition.”

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McLaren to be run by “executive committee” as new CEO is sought

McLaren has paid tribute to Ron Dennis and says it is seeking a new CEO – and the company will in the interim be run by an “executive committee,” headed by the group’s majority shareholders, working with the directors and senior management team.

Although names such Zak Brown have been connected with a future role at McLaren it would seem that no firm arrangements have been made as yet. It is possible that two individuals will be recruited to head up the organisation.

The company said in a statement: “As of this afternoon Ron Dennis no longer holds the position of Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Technology Group (or its subsidiaries). However, he remains a shareholder and a director of McLaren Technology Group.

Over the past 35 years Ron’s contribution to the success of McLaren has been colossal. During his tenure the team won 17 World Championships and 158 Grands Prix, making him the most successful leader in Formula 1 history. Like the company’s founder, Bruce McLaren, Ron is and will always be one of the true greats of the sport.

McLaren Technology Group is now in the process of seeking a new Chief Executive Officer. Until such an appointment has been made, the company will be run on an interim basis by an Executive Committee comprising the Group’s majority shareholders, in close collaboration with the Board of Directors and the senior management team, all of whom remain utterly committed to the company, its partners, its employees and its fans, and share a passionate determination to build on our many strengths towards future prosperity.”

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Dennis claims “entirely spurious” grounds forced him out of McLaren

Ron Dennis has relinquished his roles as chairman and CEO of the McLaren Technology Group following a lengthy boardroom battle with his fellow shareholders.

Dennis, who remains a 25% stakeholder in the company, has been in dispute with long time business partner Mansour Ojjeh (also owner of 25%) and the Bahrain government wealth find Mumtalakat (50%) for some time. Last week an attempt to defend his position in the UK courts failed, and a board meeting today saw him forced out. He remains a board member, however.

In a statement issued in his name Dennis said that he had been forced out on “entirely spurious” grounds.

Dennis said: “I am disappointed that the representatives of TAG and Mumtalakat, the other main shareholders in McLaren, have forced through this decision to place me on gardening leave, despite the strong warnings from the rest at the management team about the potential consequences of their actions on the business.

The grounds they have stated are entirely spurious; my management style is the same as it has always been and is one that has enabled McLaren to become an automotive and technology group that has won 20 Formula 1 world championships and grown into an £850 million a year business.

Throughout that time I have worked closely with a series of talented colleagues to keep McLaren at the cutting edge of technology, to whom I will always be extremely grateful.

Ultimately it has become clear to me through this process that neither TAG nor Mumtalakat share my vision for McLaren and its true growth potential. But my first concern is to the business I have built and to its 3,500 employees. I will continue to use my significant shareholding in both companies and my seats on both boards to protect the interests and value of McLaren and help shape its future.

In addition I intend to launch a new technology investment fund once my contractual commitments with McLaren expire. This will capitalise on my expertise, my financial resources, together with external investment to pursue the many commercial opportunities I have been altered in recent years but have been unable to take up while being so committed to the existing business.”

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