Nico Rosberg: “I’d encourage all sports teams to utilize their platform to help save our planet”

By Charlotte Owen-Burge | July 27, 2021

In 2016 Nico Rosberg – winner of 23 Grands Prix – announced his retirement from motor racing, five days after clinching the title and beating Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One World Championship.

Since retiring, Rosberg has invested in numerous start-ups such as sustainable aerospace company, Lilium and e-scooter “micro mobility” company, Tier. He is also an investor and shareholder of the all-electric racing series Formula E.

Rosberg’s latest venture is Rosberg X Racing, which “will evaluate, test and champion emerging technologies that improve sustainability and reduce society’s impact on planet earth.”

His team is currently competing in the new electric racing series, Extreme E which sees drivers of 550-horsepower electric SUVs competing in some of the world’s remotest environments in order to draw attention to the impacts of the climate emergency.

Here Rosberg discusses the power of sport, gender equality and the future of e-mobility.

Charlotte Owen-Burge: What are the origins of Extreme E and what do you hope its legacy will be?

Nico Rosberg: Extreme E is a radical new racing series which sees electric SUVs competing in extreme environments around the world that have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues. It’s the world’s first sport to be built on a social purpose and is led by Alejandro Agag, the founder of Formula E.

We’re already seeing the green technology developments pioneered in Formula E being used in road cars today, and I hope that Extreme E and my team Rosberg X Racing will have a similar impact as well as encouraging global populations to take action in promoting and actioning sustainable practices.

Racing in pristine and vulnerable landscapes might seem paradoxical from the outside looking in. What’s the intention behind this? 

Our mission is to make a lasting impact when it comes to fighting climate change, and the best way to do that is to connect with hearts and minds by showcasing the effects of climate change in some of the world’s most stunning locations, and crucially in places that have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues.

As a team we have our #DrivenByPurpose campaign which supports and promotes off-track projects focused on improving sustainability, combating climate change and promoting equality at each race location. #DrivenByPurpose symbolises RXR’s commitment to having a positive impact everywhere it goes and is something I’m very proud of the team for setting up.

What impacts do you hope Extreme E will have on e-mobility in general, especially with regards to SUVs?

Extreme E is able to showcase the capabilities of e-mobility in some of the most extreme locations on earth, so I’m confident that it will help make sustainable mobility accessible to global populations everywhere, regardless of terrain. For example, Williams Advanced Engineering produce the 54kWh battery packs for each car in the series which have to perform in all conditions, from the deserts of Saudi Arabia to the glaciers of Greenland. The battery helps each car go from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130%… So very steep climbs!

Johan Kristoffersson (SWE), Rosberg X Racing, and Nico Rosberg, founder and CEO, Rosberg X Racing, collect litter on the beach during the Saudi Arabia on March 31, 2021. (Photo by Colin McMaster / LAT Images)

Do you see Formula 1 ever fully electrifying and if so, where does that leave Formula E?

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and it has to continue to lead by example, so rather than go fully electric I think what we will see is the sport help pioneer all-new sustainable technologies in the future, such as developing the use of synthetic fuels. I see motorsport and the wider mobility industry as an ecosystem, and I think it’s important that each racing series co-exists and learns from each other when developing future-proof technologies.

Extreme E teams are gender equal. How important is it for sport to show leadership in gender equality? Is there an impact here on climate ultimately?

It comes back to the social purpose which the series is built on, and that’s a huge reason why RXR is in Extreme E. We exist to promote sustainability, and gender equality is a major part of sustainability as a topic. As part of our #DrivenByPurpose project at the first race of the season in Saudi Arabia we partnered with Conrad Electronic to support the NGO Turquoise Mountain, to donate photography and video equipment to female artisans in AluLa and empower them to continue earning a living from the crafts industry. As a father of two girls, I want nothing more than for the future to be a better place where equal opportunity exists for all, regardless of gender.

Is sport’s power to influence cultural change being underutilized? And if so, how should things change? How do more leading sports teams join the fight?

I think we need to continue educating sports fans, athletes and organizations around the world about the power of sport. We have an incredibly powerful platform to connect with millions of people and drive awareness of the problems that threaten our futures. That’s why I’m proud that RXR has joined the United Nation’s Sports for Climate Action Framework and over 240 other participants committed to use sport as a platform to support the fight against climate change.

We are stronger together when trying to raise awareness and inspiring action in the fight against climate change and I’d encourage all sports teams, fans and beyond to utilise their platform to help save our planet.

From your position of influence, you’ve been able to reach people who’ve never thought about climate change. Why do you think more people in your position aren’t using their platform in the same way: for the greater good?  

I think it comes down to education. We’ve seen a global shift in attitudes towards climate change in recent years and the need to tackle it, however we need to give those in a position of influence the confidence to use their platform to inspire others. With the effects of climate change becoming clearer to see around the world, and initiatives such as Extreme E becoming more common, I’m confident we’ll see an increase in people using their platforms help raise awareness and inspire action.

What do we need to do to make more countries and companies, for example, realize that we’re in a state of emergency? 

We need to continue using our platform to raise awareness. In Extreme E for example, already this season we’ve worked hard to showcase the devastating effects of desertification via the Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia as well as the plastic pollution and rising sea levels that are evident in Lac Rose, Senegal, where the Ocean X Prix was hosted.

What does urban mobility in 2030 look like? 

I believe that we’ll see a range of sustainable technologies being both pioneered and widely-used in 2030, with electric mobility leading the way with both traditional methods of travel such as public transport and cars as well as all-new mobility solutions, such as e-scooters and VTOL aircraft. This is down to the increasing support we’re seeing from national and regional governments, such as the ban on new ICE vehicle sales and incentives to get people adopting clean mobility solutions.

Besides EVs, I believe we’ll also see big advancements made with synthetic fuels and hydrogen fuel cells, first developed in motorsport and then rolled out for use within urban environments and beyond.

How important are net zero targets in sports?

Net zero targets are important in giving rights holders, teams, suppliers, fans and everyone else involved a common goal to strive for with set of timelines to work within. It’s encouraging to see more sports commit to going net-zero and — more importantly — taking action.

Extreme E’s next stop is the Arctic and the retreating Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. The hope is to raise awareness of the rate at which ice is melting at the poles by racing on land once occupied by the once-mighty glacier. For more information visit:


Youth & Civil Society

The Climate Champions Youth Fellowship 2024

Find out if you are eligible for our paid fellowship programme, and apply before 10pm GMT on Wednesday 10th April   Young people and future generations are environmental stewards of the future. Many are also leaders and subject matter experts today. The Climate Champions Team, in support of the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, are […]

Youth & Civil Society

Upcoming: UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67)

The 67th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment, will take place this year from 6 – 17 March under the theme, “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.