Bernie Ecclestone was shocked to learn of Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire with immediate effect, announced on Friday.
Rosberg clinched his first drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, ending Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton’s reign as World Champion.
Ahead of the FIA prize giving in Vienna on Friday, Rosberg announced that he would not be defending his title in 2017, retiring from racing with immediate effect.
The racing world has been shellshocked by the news, with F1 CEO Ecclestone revealing that he had no idea that the sport would be without its champion for next season.
“It was just as big a shock to me as you,” Ecclestone told Reuters.
“I had dinner with Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team boss] last night and he obviously couldn’t say anything to me.
“[Rosberg] needs more time to spend his money, that’s all.”
Following Rosberg’s announcement, speculation has been rife regarding a possible replacement at Mercedes for 2017, with names such as Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Pascal Wehrlein being linked with the seat.
Ecclestone was open to the idea of Alonso leaving McLaren with one year to spare on his contract, suggesting that the recent management changes could allow the Spaniard to walk away.
“It’s possible I suppose, let’s see,” Ecclestone said.
“They’ve got new management now at McLaren. Maybe he’s fed up being there and they’re fed up having him.”
When asked if Vettel might be an option for Mercedes, Ecclestone said: “I think not. I don’t think Seb would want to be with Lewis.”
2017 will be the first year since 1994 that the defending World Champion has not raced in F1, with Alain Prost retiring at the end of his championship year in 1993.