Since Rosberg announced his retirement in Vienna on Friday, there has been a growing list of candidates mentioned as potential team-mate to Lewis Hamilton next year.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has declared that the team is looking at “all the options”, which range from promoting a young driver like Pascal Wehrlein to buying out the contract of one of the top drivers, all of whom are signed for 2017.
“We have lost a champion, the best driver of 2016,” Lauda, who serves as Mercedes non-executive chairman, is quoted as saying to Gazzetta dello Sport. “It won’t be easy to replace him because all the drivers of a certain standard have contracts with other teams.
“Taking a young driver is a risk, we don’t know if he will be strong. Practically half of the grid have offered themselves.”
Never afraid to speak his mind, Lauda also admitted that he and several team members took Rosberg’s decision “badly”.
“I didn’t expect it, nobody in Mercedes imagined that he had had enough,” the former triple world champion added.
“At first I didn’t believe it. ‘Nico, what you told us, are you kidding by any chance? It’s a joke?’ But he said it was all true. Quite incredible.
“Rosberg’s decision has left us disorientated and unprepared, and all those who contributed to Nico winning the world title took it very badly.”
The news was first reported in French media on Thursday evening, with sports daily L’Equipe saying Circuit Paul Ricard has agreed on a five-year deal to welcome the sport back to France following a ten-year absence.
The event will receive support from the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur [PACA], the city of Toulon, the département of Var and the FFSA [French motorsport federation], with an official announcement and more details expected during a press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon in Paris.
Asked by UK news agency Reuters about France coming back to the F1 programme, Ecclestone replied: “Yes, I think it will happen”
The 86-year-old added that the event is likely to take place in late July, “more or less sort of the German date, probably”, while stories in the French press had mentioned a late August or early September slot.
Also known as Le Castellet, Paul Ricard has undergone massive renovation works since it last hosted F1 in 1990, and was used for a Pirelli wet-weather tyre test as recently as in early 2016.
Despite Ecclestone’s family trust owning the circuit, the F1 CEO rules out them being involved in organising and promoting the returning French GP.
“It’s nothing to do with them at all. I think they are renting it to the people that are going to be the promoters.”
France last hosted a Formula One grand prix at Magny-Cours in 2008, with Felipe Massa winning the race for Ferrari.
It is easy to deduce that Nico Rosberg’s best time as an F1 driver came when moving to Mercedes from Williams.
The last three years of his career were easily his best and on finally reaching the peak of the sport as 2016 champion, Rosberg stunned the sport by calling it a day.
It was a premature end to a career filled with thrills and that promised many more.
But what we are left with, we look back upon fondly so here are our five favourite moments from Rosberg’s ultimately fleeting F1 career.
5. BRILLIANT BAHRAIN DEBUT
Rosberg lived up to the faith of Frank Williams and in his very first race impressed alongside team-mate Mark Webber. Yes the season did not end the way Rosberg and Williams would have liked but nevertheless Rosberg’s entry to the F1 stage was impressive. The 21-year-old became the youngest driver in F1 history to register a fastest lap and finished in the points in seventh.
4. BREAKING OUT IN 2013
After finishing 9th in the 2012 season, Mercedes and Rosberg geared up for a more competitive campaign. With two Grand Prix wins and a consistent show throughout the year, Rosberg finished sixth in the drivers’ championship. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished two places above as the pair showed signs of what was to come.
3. HAMILTON RIVALRY INTENSIFIES
The 2014 F1 season made it apparent early on that either of Hamilton or Rosberg was going to win the world title thanks to their Mercedes, armed with the F1 W05 Hybrid. With 10 second-place finishes and five wins, Rosberg still could not beat Hamilton to the crown. Hamilton edged out Rosberg by just 67 points and had to settle for second but the improvements from both individual and team were clear.
2. SO CLOSE, SO FAR
Rosberg might have expected to break the curse and finally get the World Championship in his trophy cabinet but destiny eluded him yet again in the 2015 season. With a couple of third-place positions and an average mid-season, he was always playing catch-up to Hamilton. He did bounce back in the latter stages with three wins out of three at Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi but it was too late by then.
1.WORLD CHAMPION AT LAST
Debate raged over this year’s campaign, largely centering around whether Rosberg was a worthy champion. The rivalry with Hamilton reached fever pitch, the pair and their team at loggerheads for the majority of the year. But it was Rosberg who reached the pinnacle and, having “climbed my mountain”, he decided to call it a day. The 2016 F1 Driver standings will always show Nico Rosberg at the top.