For many, Nico Rosberg is a former Formula 1 champion and son of the legendary Keke Rosberg. Now, in his new life, Nico is still a speed fanatic heralding an E-Championship team, who drives a Nevera – Mate Rimac’s electric supercar – but he has directed his competitive drive in a completely different direction
In the world of sustainable technologies and green startups, Nico is again a champion, but also a philanthropist, and one of the most prominent ambassadors of electric mobility in the world, followed by a millions-strong audience on social networks. With several partners, he is the founder of the GreenTech Festival, a platform that brings together startup companies, environmental activists, politicians and anyone else interested in green technologies. We talked to Nico from his home in Monaco via a video call.
You were at the top of the ‘octane circus’ and immediately after winning the 2016 Formula One World Championship, you left the world of F1. Like your father Keke, you won one title, but you were in top gear and you could outdo your father. How come you decided to quit the F1 competition?
Racing in Formula One is very intense life, to be fighting for the World Title and you have to be 100 percent commitment to that. I have a lovely family have achieved my dream to become World Champion, but for me was very important to exit when I am at the top. The same thing is when you are doing investment. You do not want to invest when price go high. For me it felt like a great moment, so I decided I will spend more time with my family and start a new life. For me It was a nice decision. Of course, I am sorry for all the fans, but for me it was a good decision. No, I never considered to do battle with my father statistically or in any other way.
Today you are a successful sustainable mobility entrepreneur. How did this transformation happened and what influenced your decision to commit to a sustainable business?
I have suffered mentally during my sport career. It was toughs, it is very ego driven, just yourself and your next win. I really want to contribute in my new life in other way to others and to society, and this is the path I found in sustainability. There is a huge opportunity to innovate, to make progress, it is also necessary, especially in the case of our oceans. If we use beauty of our oceans every single day so it is our duty to take care of the oceans. And not to blow CO2 emission, and destroy sea weed with our anchors.
The competitive DNA is still active, so with Rosberg Xtreme Racing Team you continue to lead the team in the Extreme E Championship, but with another goal – to fight climate change. How does it feel to compete for a global solution to the problem instead of winning an F1 trophy, especially with Lewis Hamilton having its own team?
Sunreef is sponsoring my Team, and now we have the final race in UK, it is Rosberg vs. Hamilton team, all over again, and Rosberg comes out on top. You know, I still like to win (laughs), so second place is not an option. The beauty of E-Championship, is that we are racing to help the fight against climate change. So, this I why we are racing at these particular places, so we can show what is happening in the world. We are really able to show what is happening. We were in Senegal, and there is s huge problem with air and droughts. So we are doing charitable initiatives locally. In Sardinia when there were big forest fires, we were there to support families so we engaged in lot of activities.
Sunreef founder Francis Lapp, with whom you formed a partnership, is a great adventurer with whom you quickly found common ground and became a Sunreef Ambassador? Can you say more about this venture, whether it’s ‘hard work’ and why you have dedicated to work with this particular yacht builder?
It all started when we bought Sunreef 80, that was the start and now I am helping this company to tell the story of their eco innovation and that is what I am really passionate about. I recently visited their Technological Innovation facility, and with the I try to support on the technological front. I am also investing in new bonding material, between metal and composite which does not use glue anymore, so now Sunreef is looking how to use its potentials, so that is how we are exchanging ideas. I am also very engaged in start-up world, so I just introduce one start-up that is working with solar panels. That is why am so pride to be ambassador of Sunreef, because they are really trying to innovate in this way. I visited their headquarters in Gdansk where there are making in-house bendable solar panels and it is great thing. But with Sunreef we are not involved in racing but also in charity together.
Sunreef, with its line of ECO catamarans, took a big step forward, and made sustainable yacht as green as possible, from hull construction, drivetrain, interior materials, teak, sails and other elements. Customers have recognized the effort but what about the industry? What steps need to be taken to incorporate this in wider sense both for yachting and motor industry?
Actually, there out of four clients come to Sunreef for Eco range. It is incredible how consumer mind is shifting now. The yachting owner minds are shifting and it is great to see that kind of change. That is really great news, but for Sunreef in terms of profitability in short terms, it is not healthful. But Francis (Lapp) just really cares and for long terms it is definitively a right path to go. Right now they are working g on water makers, air conditions, reclaimed wood, recycle teak, they are trying to develop basalt and linen combination for the hull, which would be a great step from glass-fiber, so they are looking at everything. But the most important is battery efficiency, and they are looking innovations from third party suppliers. For me personally it gives me a great sense of fulfillment, I feel proud every day of initiative that I am doing, and impact that I am having. It is a good feeling.
In the electric mobility industry, not everything is ‘green’. From the acquisition of cobalt (nickel) in Africa by Chinese corporations, drilling of the seabed, the production and recycling of batteries. Given your engineering background, what do you think what has better future electricity or fuel cell power?
Both, I would say. It is important the look at both, because hydrogen has its benefits, but first of all electric now because the future is now. But regarding boating, hydrogen is worth exploring, because I know Francis Lapp is looking at that and that are already in the early development of technology. But the downside is that it is only usable if it is ‘green’ hydrogen, and that is the challenge, because if you cannot get hydrogen from decent place, it does not make sense, you still depend on whole infrastructure. So, Nicolas Lapp, R&D expert of Sunreef has said that the ultimately goal would be to produce local hydrogen on the boat, using electrolysis from sea water using solar power when the boat is not in use, but that is probably 20 years away from now.
We are witnessing major climate change but governments do not seem ready to tackle the problem fast enough (COP26). You are the initiator of the GreenTech Festival in Berlin. Can you tell for what purpose you started this event?
I have my racing team and a platform to organize events around green technology, and we have a big one in Berlin and around COP26 we had very successful Festival also in London. It is all about uniting changemakers around certain topics and encouraging discussions, where they come with certain solutions, agreements and partnerships. General feeling is that shift is happening fast right now, but it can never happen fast enough because we are still heading for the disaster at the moment., but I am still optimistic. Lot of money is shifting towards green technologies.
You choose five different countries: Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Greenland, Brazil and Argentina for Extreme E Championship, in which you will try to raise awareness to various ecological issues. You work closely with international organizations, including the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation? How does this work and what is the impact?
Our mission is to leave every location where we race in a better state then when we arrived, by helping local community and by engaging initiatives locally. With Prince Albert Foundation, a project called ‘Driven by purpose’ in Senegal was conducted, where they used satellite technology to scan the landscape and to direct livestock farmers to the vegetation and pasture, and can identified trends. So simply by using radio they can warn farmers where to go in next 3-6 months, and save lives and avoid draughts. And this is a big moment where I thing sports could take a role more and more. Whether it is Olympic games, Football world, Formula One or any other sport, to use the platform of sport to have an impact. It is the right time now in the world, because of Corona pandemic, climate change and other issue, we are hitting some big problems, and we need to use power of sports.
Your roots are in Finland, you were born in Germany, you grew up and live in Monaco. Where is your Sunreef anchored and what is your favorite destination for cruising?
I grow up on boats, so my whole family loves boating. It is always most beautiful experience to be on the water and we have Sunreef 80 and we spend hole months at Ibiza in August. It is our favorite place to be. I was also on Hvar with my family and was really impressed with by the culinary expertise, and peacefulness of the islands. For boating is sensational, and actually I am planning to sail Croatia next summer. I visited Mate Rimac couple months ago, because I am proud owner of my ‘Nevera’, which should be delivered by the end of the year.
Rafael Nadal, ia also a Sunreef Ambassador, and owns a Power 80 catamaran?
I get to know him through Sunreef, and he is incredible guy. He is such a nice guy for being one of greatest sportsman of all time, and it is an honor to be ambassador with him. I apologies for beating him in ping-pong match (laugh). Also, in our ambassador team Fernando Alonso (ordered 60 electric power cat) just joined, so it should be fun.
Text Filip Bubalo
Photos Sunreef archive