Nico Rosberg: Max Verstappen retirement talk started because of Lewis Hamilton

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Nico Rosberg believes the intensity of the 2021 title fight with Lewis Hamilton has Max Verstappen questioning his F1 career longevity.

Verstappen may be just 25 years old, but the Dutch driver has hinted he may walk away from Formula 1 at the end of his current contract with Red Bull at the end of 2028 – he’ll be just 31 at that point.

Verstappen has made it clear he hopes to race in other categories of motorsport while he’s still young enough to make an impression, with the two-time World Champion suggesting a move into endurance racing would be of most appeal to him.

While racing in Formula 1 until the more usual age of late 30s/early 40s isn’t currently appealing to Verstappen, he’s made it clear that his reasoning is based on the direction the sport has taken in recent years, ie. the ever-increasing calendar with less and less downtime, and the increased push for Sprint races and placing less importance on traditional qualifying.

But fellow World Champion Nico Rosberg suspects that the intensity of the 2021 title fight with Lewis Hamilton resulted in an absence of fun for Verstappen during his maiden championship years, and the Dutch driver has struggled to recover enjoyment since – that’s despite his ongoing dominance of the sport with Red Bull ever since.

“The time you spend beyond the time you spend in the car,” Verstappen cited as a factor in a recent interview.

“You travel a lot, you have a lot of commitments throughout the year and you know where you have to be at all times, when as a driver what I like is to race.

“It’s what I did when I was little, what I’m passionate about, but you know that in F1 everything around it is part of the sport. It is the least positive [aspect]. Ideally, I would just drive. But it is not possible.”

Pressed on what his post-F1 career might entail, Verstappen said: “I want to do other things. Endurance. IndyCar, not so much. But I would like to try to win other things.”

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Nico Rosberg: Max Verstappen retirement talk started in 2021

“That talk from him [possibly retiring] started in the year when he battled Hamilton,” Rosberg told Sky F1.

“Where he said ‘I won’t go on for very long if every year is like that’. Those battles are so fierce and intense, it takes a lot of the fun away as well.”

Rosberg chose to leave the sport at the same age Verstappen will be at the end of ’28, with the German driver walking away two days after winning the 2016 world title following a year-long slog to pip his illustrious teammate in a tense championship showdown in Abu Dhabi.

“The sport will always be an intense environment, especially when you are fighting for championships every year,” he said.

“You are the guy who has it all to lose. Every expectation is you are going to win over and over, it’s quite demanding.

“I can’t put myself in his shoes. Money-wise he’s done, he has so much he won’t have to work again or worry again. Record-wise he’s already one of the best of all time by the end of this year.”