Nico Rosberg: All-Electric Off-Road Racing Is “Really Exciting”

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At 31, Nico Rosberg had his childhood dream come true. He won the 2016 Formula One championship — then quickly retired, stunning the sporting world. He spoke in his farewell address at the FIA prize-giving ceremony in Vienna how the confluence of hard work, pain, and sacrifice was overwhelming — like so many others who have reached the pinnacle of success,

Now he’s a roving ambassador for Mercedes and a Sky F1 commentator. He is also using his platform as an elite athlete to promote his commitments to environmental racing and tackling climate change.

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Nico Rosberg: From F1 to Formula E

Rosberg karted as a child and loved the thrill of racing so much that he turned down a coveted place to study aeronautical engineering at Imperial College in London. After scoring the highest-ever marks in the Williams F1 Team’s engineering aptitude test, he was signed to race in the 2006 F1 season. His F1 career trajectory took him to Mercedes, where he was paired with phenom Lewis Hamilton. The rivalry between the Mercedes teammates is often cited as the defining battle of Formula 1 in the 2010s.

Today, Rosberg maintains a working relationship with Mercedes and endorses the all-electric models in their catalog.

Nico Rosberg sees F1 switching to synthetic fuels, explaining that already this year the competition was using 10% biofuels.

“At the moment this comes from food stock, which has ethical implications. But the next generation will be from waste products, and then synthetic fuels will arrive in 2025. Formula 1 can play a trailblazing role for synthetic fuels. They could be a faster way to get to e-mobility.”

Rosberg was an early-stage investor and shareholder in Formula E, believing the series would be a success. Formula E — officially, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship — is a single-seater motorsport championship for electric cars. The series was conceived in 2011 in Paris by FIA president Jean Todt and Spanish businessman Alejandro Agag, who is also the current chairman of Formula E Holdings.

“It’s an opportunity for manufacturers to showcase sustainability,” he says. “It shows they are committed to making the planet greener every single day and shows that sustainable racing can be enjoyable.”

Since the series’ inaugural 2014 race in Beijing, Formula E has promoted both electrification and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in racing.

Now It’s on to Extreme E for Nico Rosberg

Importantly, although Rosberg invested in Formula E, he has made a much more proactive commitment to the new FIA-sanctioned electric motorsport, Extreme E with the formation of his own team, Rosberg Xtreme Racing (RXR). The off-road series races powerful “Odyssey” electric SUVs across 5 remote territories to raise awareness of climate issues — Senegal, Greenland, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, and another destination TBA.

“It’s a sister race series to Formula E but built around a social cause,” explains Nico Rosberg. “That’s what I like about it. It’s built around equality, and that’s really exciting to see.”

The series also promotes gender equality in motorsport by mandating that all teams consist of a female and a male driver who share equal driving duties.

Lewis Hamilton — Rosberg’s former Mercedes’ partner — will also have his own team, with Hamilton employing rally legend Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez to do the driving. However, the Rosberg X Racing team has the upper hand over Hamilton’s X44, winning the inaugural event and the second race in Senegal, with a current healthy team points lead.

“It’s really exciting,” he says. “It’s great to see that Lewis has joined the path of sustainability. Fans love watching the battle of Rosberg against Hamilton. It makes the competition more intense.”

Britons Jenson Button and Jamie Chadwick are some of the most popular drivers who are driving for the series. Molly Taylor, Johan Kristoffersson, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Stéphane Sarrazin, Claudia Hürtgen, and Mattias Ekströmare are also pilots for Extreme E.

Rosberg’s participation comes because of the way the sport raises awareness around the threats to the areas where the racing takes place.

One of the first projects that RXR supported was an initiative by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which works with rural communities in Senegal to monitor available water resources and the status of vegetation. “Extreme E is involved in local initiatives to counteract threats and to slow down and stop climate change,” he says. “In Senegal, we planted one million mangroves. Extreme E involves campaigns driven by purpose.”

According to BBC Sport, the series has consulted with ecological experts to ensure the impact of its presence in these areas will be kept to a minimum, while scientists will also travel with the teams to investigate the effects of climate change. Transportation of people and equipment to each region will be via an ex-Royal Mail cargo ship — the RMS St Helena — which has been modified to act as a “floating paddock.”

There are also plans to ensure the series leaves a lasting legacy in each of the areas it visits, including tree-planting, clean-up operations, and solar-power initiatives.

Driving What He Preaches

Rosberg drives an Audi e-tron, walking the sustainability talk. “It’s a great family car and is nice for the conscience!” he exclaims. “I use an eco-friendly energy provider, and that saves going to the fuel station. It’s a normal car.”

The former FIA world champ doesn’t stop at individual decisions to battle the climate crisis, however. Rosberg calls upon governments to enact more legislation that includes electric vehicles as a way to make significant gains against the climate crisis, including in the UK.

“The UK government has taken a great step by promising to phase out fossil fuel cars by 2030,” he says. “That’s a big commitment. However, they also need to encourage a faster roll out of electric charging stations with more grants and more support. They need to take any way they can to further subsidize electric cars.”

Nevertheless, Rosberg is still optimistic that we can solve the climate crisis. “This will be a decisive decade,” he argues. “But countries are doing more and more, forcing the hands of companies on CO2 emissions. The companies know they have to get behind it.”

Image of Sardinia was provided by Extreme.E as preview to the upcoming October, 2021 race.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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