Touchdown for the 2016 FIA Formula One World Champions.
Fresh from his triumph and celebrations in Abu Dhabi, Nico made the home of the team’s title partner PETRONAS his first destination to celebrate his maiden world title. He was joined by Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff, in honour of the team’s third consecutive World Constructors’ Championship, and President and Group CEO of PETRONAS, Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin. The undoubted highlight of the day was a remarkable reception from Nico’s Malaysian family, his colleagues at PETRONAS, in the foyer of the PETRONAS Twin Towers. Walking into the foyer of the company headquarters, Nico was greeted by thousands of employees chanting his name in celebration of his World Championship victory – and he acknowledged their contribution to his success with the simple accolade: “Our championships are your championships, too, and we have achieved this together.”
He then continued: “The last 48 hours have been full of some unbelievable emotions and that was another real highlight for me – I wasn't expecting it at all and it just completely blew me away! Incredible and wonderful to see. It’s been a pretty intense few days: I’m pretty tired after some hard partying in Abu Dhabi and I’ve got a few bruises, too, from how hard we celebrated with my friends – but it’s just an amazing feeling to think I have achieved that childhood dream and I am World Champion.”
“I have been working towards it for 25 years, my whole life, and it was extremely intense out there on Sunday, touch-and-go at times and it could have been really hairy to lose the championship. But afterwards, it was amazing to share it with everybody, especially with the team. Mercedes is my racing family in F1 and we have been in this together since day one in 2010, just like PETRONAS – and now we are the best in the world. My best friends came out to Abu Dhabi to surprise me and then, of course, my parents did, too. It’s one of the most emotional parts of it to achieve what my Dad did 34 years ago. My parents had prepared a video of me during my very first days in a go-kart which I had never seen before; when I saw it on Sunday night on social media, I cried my eyes out, thinking of the support from my parents for all those years.”
“I owe some words to Lewis, too. He’s one of the best in the world, one of the best ever surely, so it’s incredibly intense to race him. It feels like we’ve been doing it forever and he’s always edged me out ever so slightly, so to finally get one back was awesome.
I’ve got great respect for him because he does an incredible job, he’s done so well over the years and he fought to the very last metre on Sunday. That made it extremely tough on Sunday but all the more beautiful afterwards.”
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff continued: “Having celebrated the Constructors’ Championship back at Brackley and Brixworth a few weeks ago, it felt only right that Kuala Lumpur should be our first stop after Abu Dhabi. Our friends at PETRONAS have played a huge part in the success of the past three years and these titles belong just as much to them. What started in 2010 as a marketing relationship has now become a deep-rooted technology partnership – particularly since the introduction of the Hybrid era in 2014. Their technologies are the lifeblood of this engine and I have rarely met more motivated, energised and ambitious people. As a group, we have now won World Championships with both of our drivers – something that was last achieved in the 1980s by McLaren with Senna and Prost. That kind of comparison makes a big statement about the hard work put into achieving these results by every single person at Brackley, Brixworth, Stuttgart and here in Kuala Lumpur – including, of course, both of our race drivers.
Two world class talents.
“When we first brought Lewis and Nico together as our driver pairing back in 2013, we made it clear that there would be no number one status for either of them – and they didn’t want that, either. We knew we had two world class talents on our hands and that giving them equal opportunity to fulfil their potential would bring out the best in them. At the same time, we knew that this approach would sometimes give us some tough moments to deal with. It’s something we took into account and accepted as a challenge worth tackling. When you see the results we’ve had together, it’s clear that this is the right approach. One of the keys to our success has been that they constantly push each other – and that in turn kept raising the bar even higher. They are both born fighters and the intense competition has been good for them, for the team and for the sport.
“Finally, a word for Nico. I have seen the video he mentioned about his first lapse in a go-kart and I found it pretty inspiring. When we see drivers here today in Formula One, we tend to forget about all the effort that has gone into getting them where they are. When I see that little kid in a go-kart, 25 years ago, I realise once again what a long journey it has been for Nico and everything he has poured into achieving his dream. He has shown such commitment and drive to get where he is today and is a thoroughly deserving World Champion.”