Climate stress

Interview with Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg
© Team Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg (35) became the Formula One World Champion in 2016 with Mercedes. Just a few days after winning the title, he announced his retirement from motor racing. Now, he is pushing for Formula One to switch to electric engines — and campaigning as an inves-tor for sustainability and e-mobility.

“I believe in hydrogen!”

Combustion engines made him Formula One World Champion. Nico Rosberg now champions sustainability and new drive concepts. And is more than happy to hand over the wheel — for autonomous driving and even flying.


Mr. Rosberg, ten years as a Formula One racing driver, 2016 world champion — how much have you personally contributed to global warming?

Rosberg: Do I have a guilty conscience, you mean? To that I can say no. I am, of course, aware that the CO2 emissions from Formula One were not insignificant. But if we look at the figures in detail, more down to the movements of the teams and the fans. And we should not forget the enjoyment this sport brings — or at least did bring — to many millions of people all over the world.

Has the fascination remained with you?

I can still relate to it. But I lead a completely different life now.

You have developed a passion for different kinds of mobility — e-mobility, hydrogen propulsion. You like to invest your money in sustainability projects? How do you see the future?

I believe in hydrogen, I have hopes for hydrogen. And what I want is for the politicians to set the right course for the future. I am, however, painfully aware that future processes and election periods are not a good match. If we really do want to shape the future, we have to think long-term and way beyond the four-year election cycle. That said: The effort is worth it — for everyone's future. “Many thanks by the way, the strategy papers and studies from Fraunhofer point me in the right direction.”

Will autonomous driving always be a dream?

I believe it will. The danger remains that of the interaction between man and machine. I am convinced we need full driving automation, level five, where the vehicle occupants are nothing but passengers and the technology is able to handle all traffic situations.

How hard is it for a famous professional driver to suddenly hand over the wheel?

I’m enjoying it. I welcome the improvement to my quality of life. All I want is to drive the roads myself that bring true joy — in a fantastic car with beautiful weather, on a windy mountain road.

Do you make a bad passenger, when it’s another person rather than the machine controlling the car?

My wife Vivian is usually quite happy with that.

As an investor, are you looking at high-flying adventures?

Air taxis, you mean? Actually, I have invested in Volocopter and Lilium, two promising German start-ups in this sector. Autonomous air taxis will, and of this I’m absolutely convinced, not only turn urban traffic on its head. They are set to revolutionize the way we inhabit cities — and will open up new possibilities for commuting, take the pressure off the roads, increase mobility and ultimately make our cities more livable.

Our Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO has created an acceptance study on this in cooperation with Volocopter GmbH. The vast majority of those interviewed in a prototype welcome the alternative to automobile traffic — although 72 percent still see the emergency landing function as “very important”. Autonomous urban traffic in an air taxi, then, is not just science fiction?

I have already bought my ticket for Singapore. I am convinced that the first air taxis will be taking off here in Germany within the next few years.

If we want to do good for our society as a whole, we have to show that there’s big money to be made as well. What are the factors?

It's really about economic success. But for this, you need to create the biggest possible benefit for as many people as possible. You know, I invested early in TIER, the electric scooters that have changed our cities. They opened the door to a new kind of mobility that perfectly combines enjoyment and usefulness. This, incidentally, is our next great step forward. In the future, TIER users will be able to charge their batteries themselves in charging stations, and receive a credit voucher in return. This advantage benefits the customers. As a result, the company is also better off because his costs reduce accordingly. Ultimately, it also eases the environmental burden as there is no need for diesel-powered transporters to collect the scooters at night.

How does the life of Rosberg the entrepreneur differ from his time as an elite athlete?

I’m learning to be more patient. Of course, the unbelievably intense exertion over a race weekend has now gone. Instead I negotiate contracts, over weeks and months. Whereas: The attention to detail and the knowledge that true success can only be achieved in a team — that stayed with me when I turned entrepreneur.

What is it that’s motivating you today?

My belief in a better world. The prominence, which I owe to my time in Formula One, helps builds this belief as well. It is opening doors for me and forging relationships — racing, then, is bringing my concerns about sustainability to the fore.

Many fans surely see you as Saul who became Paul with gasoline running through your veins. Do you often come under fire as a result?

It does happen, of course. But I’m used to being up against it. I know how it is from my time as racing driver.

You now experience a completely different kind of speed.

You are into speed reading? Actually I’m fascinated by methods that make you read faster and assimilate knowledge more effectively. Incidentally: This kind of speed is completely climate-neutral.