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Nico Rosberg: “Courage” is a common nominator between startup entrepreneurs and race car drivers

Nico Rosberg: “Courage” is a common nominator between startup entrepreneurs and race car drivers


At the Slush startup event in Helsinki, Nico Rosberg, the 2016 Formula 1 World Champion, revealed what led him to pass by a lucrative contract extension in the pinnacle of motorsport and transition into an investor.

– Nice to be back to my roots, said the 38-year-old to the extensive audience. By a fireside chat with Robert Lacher, the founder of Visionaries Club, Nico Rosberg was mapping out some similarities between race car drivers and startup entrepreneurs, who the majority of the audience was.

– Absolutely, it requires a massive amount of courage in both cases.

Currently, Rosberg’s investment firm, Rosberg Ventures, allocates funds to projects such as climate initiatives and clean technology. He has also founded the Rosberg X Racing team for the electric Extreme E racing series.
Rosberg described his racing career as a natural choice. While the majority of his friends went to university, he was more to the pursuit of victory. The support and encouragement from his champion father, Keijo “Keke” Rosberg, also a Formula 1 world champion, also played a crucial role.

– Some of the oldest among you may remember him, Nico Rosberg amused the audience.

Nico Rosberg sees many similarities between race car drivers and startup entrepreneurs.

I had an insanely strong focus on what I was doing. I shut out all the external hassle, focused solely on my goal. I didn’t use social media or read newspapers while competing, he remembers those days as they were.

Nico Rosberg
Rosberg emphasizes the importance of tiny little details when hundredths of a second determine the winner and the loser.

– Adding a kilo of weight brings two or three hundredths more for each lap. So, I didn’t eat ice cream. I had holes drilled in the car seat. I cut my socks shorter. I was the only driver wearing a black helmet because it was lighter. I even gave up road cycling when the muscles in my legs started to grow, Rosberg recounted.

In the bitter internal rivalry with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, hundredths of a second could have been decisive.
Rosberg describes his relationship with Hamilton evolving from teenage friendship to hostility as the stakes intensified. The animosity eventually included informants within the team, unauthorized power adjustments, and an increasingly dirty game.

– And I have known him since he was only 13 years old.
At the same time, Rosberg acknowledges Hamilton as a motivator without whom he could never have achieved what he did.

The 2016 World Championship was the absolute highlight of Rosberg’s career at the age of 31. It wasn’t an easy triumph. In the final race in Abu Dhabi in November 2016, he experienced real moments of horror.

– There were only 20 laps left in the race. On team radio, I was told to overtake Max Verstappen within three laps, or else the championship would slip away.”

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Rosberg’s body stopped obeying any commands. His foot on the throttle began to tremble uncontrollably. Negative thoughts started to spiral.

– My leg no longer works. I can’t drive anymore,” Rosberg recalled.

He managed to overtake Verstappen cleanly and secured the championship by finishing second.
– That [trembling] had never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since.

Rosberg retired immediately after winning the championship. He rejected an already signed $100 million contract, and many thought he was crazy. According to Rosberg, the decision was ultimately easy. When the dream was fulfilled, quitting wasn’t difficult.

– I did get an earful on the phone. But at the same time, my life and mental health were at stake. Hundreds of millions of people were following me through media and social media channels.

Speaking mainly to startup entrepreneurs, Rosberg offered advice: find a mentor or an advisor.

– I had a professional relationship with a psychologist for ten years. Two hours every other day. It helped tolerate massive pressures.

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