Following Nico Rosberg’s Formula One win and subsequent career change, She’s Mercedes ambassador Susie Wolff reflects on her friendship with Vivian and Nico Rosberg and the star couple’s coevolution.
She’s Mercedes ambassador Susie Wolff has a rare perspective on the automotive industry – as a former race car driver, she not only understands the pressures and powers that come with being a woman in a male-dominated field, but she also had the opportunity to open a much needed dialogue with fellow industry insiders about their experiences. In this edition of Susie Wolff Diaries, Wolff spotlights Vivian Rosberg – wife of racer Nico Rosberg – highlighting the unconventional change her husband made at the peak of his career – and what’s next for the dynamic duo.
Susie Wolff: As dusk fell on Sunday 27 November in Abu Dhabi and the starting lights went out, millions around the world watched on in anticipation to see who would be crowned Formula One World Champion. It had been a tense battle throughout the whole season between Lewis Hamilton, reigning triple World Champion, and Nico Rosberg – the man who came so close two years ago and was on the verge of grabbing his first F1 title. Both knew what they had to do to secure the biggest crown in motorsport.
I watched the race alone in my husband’s office at the race track – nerves stopping me from being around others. Just around the corner in Nico’s room, his wife Vivian lay on his massage bed, meditating, and couldn’t even bear to watch. Just like Nico’s mom, Sina, who famously did the hoovering through every Grand Prix to distract herself from the tension of the races and her own nerves.
Vivian had instructed her friend to come and get her five laps from the end should Nico be in a position of achieving the goal they had both worked so hard towards – the goal they had both sacrificed so much for. And they were five of the most intense, incredible racing laps of Nico’s entire career.
You all know how the story ends, despite Lewis’ best efforts to pressure his teammate into a mistake – which left us all on the edge of our seats – Nico went on to win and secured his first F1 World Championship, a feat his father had achieved 34 years before. As the celebrations kicked off, Nico shocked us all by announcing that he would be retiring. He had climbed his mountain, reached the peak and wanted to leave the sport on a high note.
So what of the woman who has been his rock for more than 13 years?
They say behind every successful man stands a strong woman and there is no doubt that Vivian has played a key role in Nico’s success. She has supported him every step of the way, making sacrifices to ensure he was in the best possible form every race weekend. She believed in his dreams – they became her dreams, too.
Both met by chance in Ibiza when they were 18 – Vivian initially not being interested in motorsport. Indeed, that was when they realized that they had played together as children over a decade earlier, when their parents had first met. As Nico climbed the motorsport ladder, Vivian studied Interior Architecture and Design in Milan. This resulted in her taking the four-and-a-half hour train journey back to Monaco every other weekend to see him between races. With her studies complete, she did an internship in New York before starting her own interior design business.
As her work took off, with projects coming in from as far as Malaysia, she then opened her own interior design studio in Monaco and started designing her own range of furniture. And all the time, Nico was climbing the racing ladder and laying the foundations for his world championship success.
Nico once told me: “I wear the trousers in our relationship but Vivian tells me exactly which trousers to wear …”
Last year however, Vivian's priorities shifted and the business took a back seat as she learnt that baby Alaïa was on the way – two were to become three. She brought untold joy to both Vivian and Nico but also meant the couple needed to find a new balance.
As Nico became ever more focused on his goal of the world title, spurred on by his intense competition with Lewis and the pain of his defeats in 2014 and 2015, so Vivian lived his dreams, shouldering the burden of their parenting to help Nico recover and regenerate between each race. Without that structure, Nico could not have summoned the energy he needed to succeed this year.
That’s why, when he announced his retirement, the warmest words of all were not for his team or his parents but for his wife, who supported him through two decades with an uncompromising dedication to his work. In the boldness of his decision is the simple truth: Nico ended his first career at its peak, and the energy and confidence he draws from this decision fuel him on his way to tackle new challenges. Will he dedicate himself to new tasks within his beloved world of motorsport? Or will he turn to mentoring new talents? I am very excited to see what’s next for him. The old guard may not understand how he can give up a seat in the best car on the grid. But in the end, it’s the empowered decision of a very modern man and a very modern family – who have now arrived in a new chapter of their lives.