Nico Rosberg: Gas-guzzling F1 champ to eco warrior

The irony is not lost on Nico Rosberg that he has gone from the excesses of Formula 1’s gas guzzling to effectively become an eco warrior.

“I had no clue about anything when I was driving,” admitted the 2016 F1 world champion. “I was just driving around fast in circles.”

But now he is driven by making a far greater and greener impact than anything he believes he achieved at the wheel of an F1 car before his shock retirement after edging teammate Lewis Hamilton to the world title.

He has his green fingers in a multitude of environmental projects, including the Green Tech Festival, which he launched earlier this month (5 February) and which will take place at the Berlin E-Prix for Formula E on 23-25 May.

Already on board for the event are the FIA, Prince Albert of Monaco and the German Federal Ministry of Transport. Some 50,000 attendees are expected over the three days, which includes the Green Tech Awards, of which the revered environmentalist Sir David Attenborough is a past winner.

That Rosberg finds himself in such a position a little over two years after retiring, he admits can be occasionally bemusing.

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“When I retired, I had no idea where life would take me,” he said. “I never had a clue I’d end up in this but I’m finding a lot of enjoyment in these business challenges but this is much more than that.”

His environmental ventures began with a fact-finding mission to Silicon Valley followed by becoming a shareholder in Formula E, and last year he even got behind the wheel of a Formula E car, which he insists was a one-off, his driving forays now “for his YouTube channel only”.

Of the upcoming festival, he said: “This brings green leaders in from around the world and it’s going to be a global hub for green technologies that didn’t exist before. But I want this to be the start of something special.

“I don’t want it to be blah, blah, blah but working on a real solution to make a real impact.

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“I’m thankful for the impact I had in Formula 1 and the idea I might have inspired some people watching but this is much bigger. With this, there’s the potential to have a far more powerful impact. This can have a serious impact on the planet and improve things. It’s a huge opportunity and I’m loving it.”

Among the exhibits on show are flying drones and all sorts of mobility innovations.

‘I’m far from perfect’

Away from the festival, he has also got involved with other eco ventures, including Lilium, bidding to become the world’s first all-electric jet, and Lyft, which is pushing towards autonomous vehicles.

And such an approach is also rubbing off on him at home. While the solar panels are not quite in place on the family home in Monaco — “I’m far from perfect but we’re making changes at home” — he travels around the principality in a rather modest Renault Twizzy Electric.

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Despite such a green approach in business and in life, his passion for F1 still burns bright even though he is adamant he will never make a U-turn and return to the grid.

“I love F1, it’s my sport and I’ll love it forever,” he said. “And technology wise, they’re the zeitgeist. They’ve the hybrids right now but I’m pretty sure there will come a time when they have to change.”

Rosberg believes there could be a point when F1 and Formula E become bedfellows in the next eight to 10 years, suggesting the idea of them merging as a series is “not impossible”.

That the German finds himself in his current position as an eco investor is partially surprising with his past motorsport forays but it also lends itself to his interests growing up as a child.

Had he failed to make it to motorsport’s elite as a driver, he believes he would have liked to work in aerodynamics, although jokes: “I’m not sure if I would have been good enough or had the brains!”.

But he added: “I’ve always loved innovation and engineering, and it’s been a strong point of my career as a driver. But the innovation has to fascinate me to get involved. If it’s not a cool idea, you can’t get behind it, and there are a lot cool ideas out there.”