Wolff: 'Rosberg retirement a brave decision'

Wolff was effusive in his praise of Rosberg's talent behind the wheel and says there is now an opportunity for someone to fill the German's void.

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Toto Wolff embraces Nico Rosberg.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has paid tribute to Nico Rosberg, describing his decision to retire as Formula One world champion a "brave" one.

Rosberg won his maiden drivers' title by securing the podium finish he required in the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to fend off team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

The German shocked the sporting world on Friday by announcing that he was to walk away from the cockpit after a career spanning 206 Grand Prix and 23 race wins.

Wolff was effusive in his praise of Rosberg's talent behind the wheel and says there is now an opportunity for someone to fill the German's void.

"This is a brave decision by Nico and testament to the strength of his character," Wolff said via a Mercedes statement. 

"He has chosen to leave at the pinnacle of his career, as world champion, having achieved his childhood dream. The clarity of his judgement meant I accepted his decision straight away when he told me.

"With Mercedes, Nico has been a relentless competitor, bouncing back from tough times in an inspirational way, and he earned the respect of the sport with his tenacity, his fighting spirit and his grace under pressure.

"Since 2010, he has poured competitive energy into our team and we have grown stronger because of it. We simply say 'thank you' for the incredible contribution he has made to our success, alongside two of the all-time great drivers, Michael [Schumacher] and Lewis [Hamilton]. 

"For the team, this is an unexpected situation but also an exciting one. We are going into a new era of technical regulations and there is a free Mercedes cockpit for the seasons ahead.

"We will take the necessary time to evaluate our options and then find the right path for our future." 

Rosberg's achievement of winning the drivers' title matched that of his father Keke, who was champion in 1982. And Wolff believes that attempting to live up to his dad's feat added to the weight of expectation on Rosberg's shoulders.

He added: "It's impossible to capture the essence of a person in a few short words. But Nico has a special combination of natural talent and fighting spirit that have brought him to where he is today.

"Throughout his career, people have thought he was on a golden path to success just because his father was a world champion; in fact, I think in some ways that made the challenge greater - and meant he had to fight even harder with the weight of expectation on his shoulders."