F1 faces more change after Rosberg exit

Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:05pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One goes into the New Year braced for change on and off the track, even if Lewis Hamilton will again start as top dog at Mercedes and firm favorite to take his fourth world championship.

After winning 19 of a record 21 races in 2016, starting all but one on pole and retaining both titles for the third year in a row, there is just a chance that Mercedes will be less dominant.

They will be without newly-crowned champion Nico Rosberg for starters, after the retirement bombshell that dropped jaws around the world only days after he won his first title.

The German came good as never before this year, winning the opening four races and nine in total on his way to joining Britain's Damon Hill as only the second son of a champion to take the crown.

If that success was a shock to those who expected him to finish runner-up again, as might have been the case without Hamilton's blown engine in Malaysia and other issues, it was nothing to what followed next.

"I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right," Rosberg said after telling stunned team bosses that he was calling it a day.

Mercedes will not name a replacement until January at least, with Finn Valtteri Bottas favorite to move from Williams into the hot seat.

Rosberg was not the only one heading for the exit, with Ron Dennis ousted as McLaren boss and 2009 champion Jenson Button making way at the team for Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne.   Continued...

Mercedes' Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg during the "Ein Herz fuer Kinder" (A Heart for Children) TV charity telethon in Berlin, Germany December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Britta Pedersen/Pool