Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff admits himself and the rest of the team's top brass were caught off guard by Nico Rosberg's decision to retire – and says the outfit has not yet gone to work on finding a replacement.
Rosberg shocked the motorsport world by announcing his retirement at the FIA Prize Gala in Vienna on Friday, just a few days on from taking his maiden F1 championship in Abu Dhabi.
Asked whether he knew Rosberg's decision was coming, Wolff said: “Not at all. I had a bit of a feeling that I couldn’t quite judge when we travelled that there was something going on.
“It took me completely by surprise and saw some board members and Niki [Lauda], and they were equally surprised. It is something we would never have imagined, but in the same way, it really causes admiration within me.
“He knows exactly what he is doing, he is in control of his thinking, so from the first moment he told me, he said there is no doubt this is his decision – and that is it.”
Wolff said the process of picking a replacement for Rosberg, who had been signed through 2018, will only kick off next week.
“I think first on the agenda was to give Nico the opportunity to tell everybody that he is stopping.
“We didn’t want this to leak so we kept it in a very small circle - and now we have to consider all options, and it will be very hard. We will start to look at this on Monday.
“It will be a very rational structured process. We will stick the heads together - Niki and I have been having discussions already these last two days and then on Monday, we go back to Brackley and sit down with the engineers and hopefully find somebody who can step in those big shoes.”
Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble