N.Nowadays, ico Rosberg’s eyes really seem to reflect the soul of the former Formula 1 world champion. They are living, fascinating windows to his feelings, far removed from the steely sheen that emerged from under his F1 visor. Here then is that bright, joyous moment when you remember what it felt like to win that World Championship, which was quickly captured by the serious gaze of the man who walked away from Formula 1 for his life tackling the climate emergency to devote. The eyes really have it, for Rosberg leaves no doubt as to what is more important now.

“It’s ecstasy when you win races and championships, an incredibly exciting experience, such ecstasy,” he says. “But I feel like it gives me a longer term fulfillment to be on this path where I focus on serving many, many people around the world, and that makes me proud.”

Rosberg has the zeal of a convert combined with thoughtful deliberations as to how he believes he can best implement change. He thinks he found it in the form of the new Extreme E-Racing series, but his ambitions are even bigger. He wants to change the relationship of global sport to climate change, including at Manchester United and the major football clubs.

Rosberg won his F1 title in 2016, the same as that achieved by his father Keke in 1982. He remains the only driver to beat Lewis Hamilton for the title since 2014 and retired immediately after knowing he had reached a career high. Rosberg started competing in 1991 at the age of six and it was his whole life before the championship was sealed.

He admits he was quick to see that beyond the all-consuming F1 circus, there was a broader perspective on life. Suddenly, F1 felt a world away and the real world was in a terrifyingly dangerous state. “It was looking for more meaning in my life, to find a greater sense of fulfillment in what I do,” he says. “I told myself that as an entrepreneur I would rather lead a life of service and make sure my projects benefit many people in the world.”

The Acciona Sainz XE team racing car that will drive in Extreme-E, the off-road racing series that works to raise awareness of climate change. Photo: Rodrigo Jimenez / EPA

The most energetic racers may find media outreach or work for teams. Since 2016, Rosberg has been committed to supporting sustainability issues, supporting environmentally friendly technologies and mobility startups, including the electric Formula E. He founded the Greentech Festival in 2019 to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable technologies. His work was awarded the GreenTec Entrepreneur of the Year environmental award.

But now he’s practically back in racing – in green racing, of course. Rosberg was one of the first to sign up for the Extreme E-Series when it was announced last year. Founder and owner, his team, Rosberg X Racing, and former F1 World Championship rivals, have followed suit. Hamilton has joined the series as the owner of the X44 team, as has Jenson Button, who will also be racing for his JBXE squad.

Like Rosberg, Hamilton won’t drive, but the German welcomes a friendly resumption of the rivalry that ended in a bitter, fragile relationship at Mercedes with the former friends. Competitive advantage never goes away as he finds that he faced his rival when he started the new series.

“It’s fantastic that Lewis is already building a passion project with Extreme E alongside F1 and we’re fighting each other,” he says. “He’s got such a big reach and power that it will definitely make a difference. It is great that he is following in my footsteps on this path of sustainability. “

Some people wouldn’t tune in if it were just about the message, this is where we’re going to have a chat with the race

However, the cause here is what is really important to him. Extreme E is a completely new concept with a double goal: to race sustainably and to promote definite social goals. For the latter to work, the former must appeal. “Motorsport is a vehicle to get the message across,” he says. “Some people would not tune in if it was just about the message. Here we will talk to the race. If it was only about climate change, they might not be watching because they are more passionate about motorsport than they are about climate change. “

This weekend the series will hold their inaugural X-Prix in Saudi Arabia and we’ll see if they’ve at least been successful in providing the entertainment. The off-road challenge consists of nine teams all using the same Odyssey 21 electric SUVs. It should be climate neutral. No fans will be present and in order to minimize emissions from logistics, the paddock is located on the RMS St. Helena, a ship that has been converted to transport the teams and equipment without air freight. It will also host a scientific group that will conduct experiments at each venue and run legacy projects to directly address the environmental issues at each location.

Each of the five venues was chosen to highlight a different aspect of the threat posed to the environment by the climate emergency, e.g. B. desertification in Saudi Arabia or the retreat of glaciers and damaged rainforests. The ship will also use hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity to charge the cars, while drones instead of helicopters will follow the action for broadcasters.

Perhaps most noticeably, Extreme E is the first series to require teams to use both a male and female driver, with each completing a lap before pitting. Briton Jamie Chadwick, 2019 first W-Series winner, will ride for the Veloce team. Rosberg believes it is a properly forward-looking policy of championship that is not afraid to look for new methods.

Nico Rosberg (left) will renew his rivalry with Lewis Hamilton, this time as the team owner. “It’s fantastic that Lewis is already building a passion project with Extreme E alongside F1,” he says. Photo: Marwan Naamani / AFP / Getty Images

“It was great to see that approach,” he says. “Equality is currently a big problem around the world. Not just racism, but equality in general. Motorsport women are so underrepresented, and that’s a real shame, and that’s why Extreme E’s are leading. “

There is no shortage of ambition here, and Rosberg was clearly captured by its potential beyond the limits of motorsport. The German believes that the series should also play a pioneering role in sport on a larger scale and has challenged football in particular to get involved.

“The vision here has to be that one day, very soon, sports institutions like Manchester United will integrate this social cause and purpose into their basic structure,” he says. “I really wish we could be a driving force for leading sports teams around the world to take part in the fight against climate change. I hope to raise awareness of other sports teams in order to participate.

“The soccer teams, the reach they have to raise awareness and mobilize people around the world to join this cause and do their part, are so powerful. Probably the greatest opportunity we have in the world is sport. “

This is also not a pipe dream by Rosberg, who cites the example of the Ajax stadium, in which solar panels have been used since 2018 and batteries from electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions by more than 115,000 tons and excess energy is fed back into the grid.

Rosberg’s decision to view this environmental cause as the new driving force in his life is remarkable. His excitement is as great as in Formula 1, but his goals are higher and it’s refreshing to find a driver who has shrugged what had previously defined his entire life to himself so publicly and vehemently to use for a cause.

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This new passion will almost certainly not evoke the ecstasy that comes with the checkered flag, but Rosberg enjoys a calm, committed assurance that doing nothing would be a disaster.

“To do good in the world, you don’t have to just sit in a cave,” he says. “The problem is, the longer we wait, the harder it becomes to stop the process. So it is more important that we act now,” he says, before closing eyes that tolerate little opposition. “This is the crucial decade.”