Nico Rosberg is a Formula One World Champion, who turned into a Sustainability Entrepreneur, being a role model for Monaco’s e-mobility movement.
Long-term Monaco resident, the Finnish-German former racing driver Nico Rosberg was born in 1985 in Wiesbaden, Germany. He is the only child of Formula One World Champion Keke Rosberg and his German wife Sina Rosberg and he was raised primarily in the Principality of Monaco.
Nico raced in Formula One for eleven years claiming the title of World Champion in 2016. Since his retirement from Formula One, Nico Rosberg has embarked on a career as a sustainability entrepreneur and investor in green technologies and mobility start-ups.
How would you describe the definition of “Sustainability Entrepreneur”?
“To me, it is essential to combine business with a positive impact. Regardless if it’s for the environment, the society, or ideally for both, of course. I believe it is all about leaving a long-lasting positive legacy. In my case, for example, I would like to push for a sustainable change in mobility through technological innovation. Besides, I am interested in investing in start-ups that are focusing on sustainable technologies, services or products.”
What is the most important factor for you in the e-mobility movement?
“Availability! In order for mobility solutions to truly contribute to a better climate, it’s crucial to make sure that as many people as possible worldwide have access to zero emission vehicles. That is the reason why I love investing in e-mobility start-ups. Perhaps you have heard of TIER or Chargepoint; those are two of the companies I am invested in who help to bring more sustainable transportation to market. Or take Volocopter, another of my investments – their aim is to make air taxis super affordable for everyone. Soon we will be flying from one place to another for less money than the cost of a cab ride.”
Nico loves challenges and he continously proves his excellence since early childhood. He began competitive go-kart racing at the age of six and achieved early success, winning regional and national French championships, before moving to European-based series and world championships.
At the age of 16, he progressed to car racing, winning nine races to claim the 2002 Formula BMW ADAC Championship with VIVA Racing.
Nico first drove in Formula One with Williams from 2006 to 2009 and achieved two podium finishes for the team in 2008. For 2010, he moved to Mercedes, partnering fellow German and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. Rosberg took his first career win at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix. He was the teammate of former karting friend and eventual seven-time World Drivers’ Champion, Lewis Hamilton, from 2013 to 2016, twice finishing runner-up to his teammate before a title win in 2016.
Nico announced his retirement from motor racing five days after clinching the title, citing wanting to spend more time with his family and not wanting his driving ability to atrophy as the main factors behind his surprise decision.
In retirement, he moved into driver management, television punditry, and became an eco-entrepreneur. He was awarded the Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year and was inducted into the FIA Hall of Fame in 2017.
In late 2020, Nico announced his involvement in the new Extreme E electric race series. This exciting new competition brings electric racing to some of the most remote corners of the planet to highlight the climate change challenges faced by different ecosystems, whilst showcasing the performance of all-electric SUVs in extreme conditions.
You recently launched Rosberg Xtreme Racing. Off-road racing is a new experience for you, how did you find the team after the first tests?
“Being able to combine my passion for racing with raising awareness for the environment was just the right fit for me. Extreme E offers a fantastic platform to drive awareness, educate and help tackle climate change, both at the incredible locations the series visits and globally via its innovative media strategy. It’s a truly unique series when you look at the locations that we will visit and the fact that we are aiming for a carbon-zero footprint by the end of the first season.
All global sports should be moving towards this outcome. After our first test, we did not want to stop – everybody was so excited, and I think we all can’t wait for the season’s kick-off in April. It was epic to see the dedication of our drivers Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson, the entire team behind it. Off-road racing truly is a new experience for me. But apart from the opportunity to explore that kind of racing I look forward to using the platform for a call to action in the fight against climate change.”
Entering with your team to the Extreme E series, your team will compete against your Formula One rival Lewis Hamilton. What is your prediction for the first season?
“I find it quite exciting, to be honest. Isn’t it great to see that Lewis has also taken the path of fighting climate change? He has a huge fan base and is able to reach millions of people. I am looking forward to driving positive change together with each and every one of Extreme E’s teams. What’s also pretty interesting is that Extreme E has opted for ‘mixed doubles’ teams as mandatory. It is one of the series’ goals to promote and implement messages and measures that encourage diversity and gender equality.”
In 2018, you became an investor in the Formula E series. Have you ever thought to start a competing team against Venturi?
“No, I never really considered that. The timing for me to start my own race team was really great now and Extreme E is the right platform for me as it emphasizes and supports the mission that I have pursued, personally, since retiring from Formula One. I hadn’t really considered ever to start a race team before last year, when things just felt absolutely right. But Formula E is a fantastic series and I am very proud of the development and progress it’s made.”
Do you remember the first time when you wanted to be a race driver? You were already in the go-kart racing by the age of 6.
“Actually, a tiny bit earlier. My father used to let me race my small go-kart at our Ibiza home. He would fix it up himself and let me go around the track in our yard. I don’t remember striving for anything else other than becoming a F1 World Champion. I did have a back-up plan though and got into Imperial College in London to study aerospace engineering. However, I ended up deciding to follow my father’s footsteps and committing 100% to the world of racing.”
Besides your father, who was your racing idol?
“My father played a huge role in my entire career, and I am forever grateful for all he has done and incredibly proud of what he has achieved in his career, in his life, really. Niki Lauda has always impressed me as well. He was just so dedicated, passionate, and especially during my time at Mercedes, a very influential mentor. I have learned so much from him. He was a true inspiration. After winning the Monaco GP, I remember him taking off his hat, showing his respect, and that just really meant a whole lot to me. Niki never gave up; he was always ready to give more than 100% – I am immensely grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from him.”
In 2016, you won the Formula One World Championship and almost immediately you decided to retire. Do you miss racing and sitting behind the wheel?
“Absolutely not. It was a huge part of my life, but I have decided to dedicate my time towards something other than racing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of it, and it was actually really hard to find a new purpose. I am happy with my choice and excited about making the world a better place – at least that is my intention and mission.”
What did your father say when you won the Formula One World Championship?
“That was such an emotional milestone. I remember precisely seeing him after I crossed the finish line, I showed him my trophy, and we were both just simply out of it. It was a crazy feeling that still gives me goosebumps today. You know, my father always gave me my own space in racing. He did not want to pressurize me. But sharing this special moment with him was just all I had ever wanted.”
You are a father of two. Do you think your daughters will follow your footsteps in the world of racing?
“My two girls are my everything – actually my three girls, of course – my wife Vivian, and both of my daughters Alaïa and Naïla are my life. I will support them regardless of which path they want to take. I would very much like to see them going in a direction where they don’t put their life at risk. I mean, racing was and is still a dangerous sport. Alaïa loves music and to sing, I could see her wanting to become a singer. I actually wish for them to pursue what they believe in and what they are passionate about.”
Do you have any plan to return behind the racing wheels?
“No, that chapter is closed, and I want to keep focusing on being a sustainability entrepreneur. When I retired from Formula One at the end of 2016, I committed to a life of service and making a difference. I’m excited to continue doing that in the role of CEO at Rosberg Xtreme Racing, leading a team that is driven to inspire positive change. But I am leaving racing to Molly and Johan.”
Do you have any other passion than racing?
“I enjoy playing soccer, tennis, chess, photography, and I love reading about personal development, striving to find ways to push and improve myself constantly. After retiring from F1, I have found a new passion, other than racing. Green technologies and alternative mobility solutions fascinate me, and I want to take action and do something to help protect our planet. Up until today, I have invested in more than 28 start-ups and co-founded a festival celebrating green technologies, the GREENTECH FESTIVAL.”
What do you think, what is the biggest challenge for Monaco in becoming a sustainable capital?
“Well, I think Monaco is already doing great and making an amazing effort to achieve that goal. Thanks to the Prince Albert II Foundation, sustainable development initiatives can be found in public as well as private organizations all around Monaco. The only challenge I can potentially see would be the limited space of land in comparison to other cities in the world. But then again, Monaco is an inspirational place for so many people everywhere and therefore, we have a true opportunity to become a role model and thought leaders on matters of sustainability.”
What was the most important advice you have ever received?
“That would be Niki Lauda pointing out the fact, that in life, we always meet twice. It was very true in the small world that is Formula One, but it is also true in the wider world and I try and always bear this in mind when parting with people. Hold no grudges, treat others with respect and you have no reason to fear the second meeting” – smiles Nico.
In 2018, Nico was recognized for his commitment to sustainable innovation with the “GreenTec Entrepreneur of the Year” environmental award.
Nico, what would your message/advice be for future entrepreneurs who aim to be more involved in the field of sustainability?
“Do something you are truly passionate about and that you really believe in. Only then can you be a good entrepreneur I think. Build a strong and reliable network of supporters, partners, collaborators and suppliers. Trust your instincts. Go the extra mile and take a good look at what the market offers. Do your due diligence – this isn’t a petty advice, but a necessity. Even though it’s good to dream big, a huge condition for success is a proper look at reality and of course – hard work.”