Revealed: The Michael Schumacher lesson that led to Nico Rosberg’s retirement

Michelle Foster
Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher laughing. STUTTGART GERMANy January 2010

Nico Rosberg spent three years working with Michael Schumacher at Mercedes.

Taught by seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher to “squeeze everything out you can”, James Vowles reveals Nico Rosberg did just that in 2016 before deciding “that’s not the life he wanted”.

Schumacher and Rosberg were team-mates during the former Ferrari driver’s three years at Mercedes, Schumacher brought out of retirement by then Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn – the man who played an integral role in his seven World titles.

Working alongside Schumacher, Rosberg claimed the team’s only win during their time together at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix with his elder statesman once again entering retirement at the end of that campaign.

Nico Rosberg ‘learned a tremendous amount’ from Michael Schumacher

Replaced by Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg went head-to-head with the Briton for the 2014, ’15 and ’16 Drivers’ Championship titles.

Successful in the last campaign, he called time on his Formula 1 career, shocking both his team and the paddock when he announced just days later that he would be retiring at the age of 31.

Vowles says having given his all and more during that 2016 title fight, a lesson he learned from Schumacher, the World Champion decided that was not the life he wanted to live.

Speaking on the latest High Performance podcast, the former Mercedes’ sporting director, who worked with both Schumacher and Rosberg, spoke of the seven-time World Champion’s influence on not only Rosberg but also himself.

“Michael, he taught me how to work really hard,” he said. “Michael wasn’t the most skilful in the car – I’ve said that was Lewis – but he knew how to extract every millisecond out of himself, and every millisecond out of the team.

“He was a leader. He would say, ‘I’m gonna go this way’, and the team would follow him there, so much so that both sides of the garage wanted him to do well.

“So much so that one of my regrets in my career is we didn’t get a win for him. That still hurts me ’til today, he deserved to win.

“The Michael you had facing in front of the media was a very different Michael to what was behind the scenes. And that’s how he did it fundamentally.

“So he would bring everyone on the journey and lead everyone on the journey, he would extract everything, he would squeeze himself for every millisecond he had, he would work as late as he needed to every hour he needed to. That was how he operated.”

And those were the lessons Rosberg learned from the F1 legend.

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“Nico learned a tremendous amount from him,” Vowles continued. “It formed the Nico that then became a World Champion ultimately, which is squeeze everything out you can at the cost of everything else.”

Podcast host Jake Humphrey interjected: “So much so you end up having to leave after threatening that World title.”

“Exactly that,” replied Vowles. “The sacrifice that was painful to me where you let go of family and friends and loved ones, he did for that year.

“And he decided, and all the respect to him for it, but actually that’s not the life he wanted.”

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