So, Nico Rosberg won his first WDC and retired from his Formula 1 career. The Formula 1 world has fallen on its head, in the following week. Let's sort through the noise and chatter and try to make some sense of this all.
Firstly: There is already too much speculation about his replacement. I don't believe that anyone currently in Formula 1 will replace Nico Rosberg, except maybe Pascal Wehrlein. I can't imagine a driver like Alonso, Vettel or Ricciardo foregoing their current teammates to join onto Hamilton's team. I think Hamilton's behaviour partially pushed the fairly quiet German into retirement. I think that any other highly competitive drivers like Alonso, Vettel or Verstappen wouldn't be a good fit because of the ensuing intra-team conflict. As Hamilton's personality is so incredibly competitive that if he doesn't win, he must blame the team for sabotage and various other unnecessary claims, any other driver who fights tooth & nail and won't give an inch would not be a good fit. Rosberg was the type who would let Hamilton do what Hamilton wants to do without much concern, and would drive his own race, for the most part.
If even Rosberg and Hamilton crash into each other and [at least almost] take each other out of the race on several occasions, imagine what Vettel would do, in a case such as Vettel v. Webber in Turkey, if his teammate were even faster than Webber and the rivalry more fierce. I'd expect a quiet driver like Esteban Ocon or Wehrlein, whose position on Manor Racing Team meant that they were never really put under the same level of pressure as Hamilton or Vettel, meaning that they might be satisfied with a second place finish to Hamilton, whom Mercedes have been trying to hold a leash on for the past half-year. Ferrari with Vettel, McLaren with Alonso, and so on, those teams have to try to match the hot=head teammate with the coolheaded, logical teammate. You've got Hamilton with Rosberg, Alonso with Button, Vettel with Raikkonen. Raikkonen is the perfect example of a coolheaded racing driver who doesn't let his teammate's antics interfere with his own race, nor his post-race interview personality.
Instead, I'd suggest that you look at the crop of DTM drivers in 2016. These cars are very similar to F1 cars in terms of technology, with DRS and high downforce levels. But, with only three models of car, and not twelve, car performance was more closely matched from the top of the field to the bottom.
The top 5 or 6 in DTM should be looked at as potential replacements for a Formula 1 driver in a Mercedes powered car. The top scoring Mercedes driver in DTM last year was Robbie Wickens, the ever talented Canadian driver who already raced in Formula 1 in 2011, albeit in the slowest car on the grid. I'm slightly biased, when I say that I'd love to see a Canadian in Formula 1, but having raced with Robbie, he's a good guy and would likely enjoy his position a lot, even beside a teammate like Hamilton. He's a cool-headed driver whose personality wouldn't clash much with Hamilton. How well he would adjust to a Formula 1 car? No one can be too certain, but, he's my bet for someone coming from DTM to get [back] into Formula 1. By the way, Wickens outperformed Ocon in every race in DTM 2016.
If that doesn't work, I could imagine seeing only Wehrlein, Hülkenberg, or Bottas actually being chosen to drive for Mercedes. I don't picture it happening with any of the existing Formula 1 drivers. I fully expect that Mercedes would prefer to have a German driver, which furthermore gives creedence to the idea that Wehrlein could get the seat, if it doesn't go to Robbie Wickens.
In any case, it's early to guess and I'm probably wrong, but I'm just going by the history of drivers who have driven for Mercedes F1 team, trying to pull out the right guess. I guess my official stance is "Robbie Wickens would be awesome, but Wehrlein is most probable." Some drivers probably regret signing their contract with any of the other teams right now, since drivers like Palmer, Hülkenberg, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso and Vandoorne all have their contracts for 2017.
And Why Did Nico Retire?
Believe what you want. If his only goal was to become F1 WDC, he did that. He won his championship. Now, maybe he wants to make his daughter into a fellow World Driver's Champion, just like dad and grandad. I can't blame him. I'd want the same for my kids...
Others will say that it's because it's better to leave while you're ahead. Others will say, it's so that he can get into a different series like WEC.
Personally, I believe that he meant what he said; he wants to spend time with the wife and kids.
And What About the Other Retiring Drivers?
I'm really upset about seeing Massa and Button retiring. I'll miss them. Especially Massa, he's always been a great driver and a great guy. I wish them the best of luck with wherever their future takes them.
Drew Geier is a Canadian petrolhead whose main mission is to make motoring accessible, enjoyable, and affordable well into the future, by improving the art, hobby and lifestyle of motoring. He builds cars, and he writes about other builds. He's built a Subaru WRX and is building a Honda Civic EK.