Motor racing-Ecclestone shocked by Rosberg retirement, backs Alonso
MOTOR-F1-ROSBERG/ECCLESTONE:Motor racing-Ecclestone shocked by Rosberg retirement, backs Alonso
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - World champion Nico Rosberg's retirement announcement on Friday came as a complete surprise even to the man who knows most of Formula One's best-kept secrets, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
"It was just as big a shock to me as you," he told Reuters by telephone after Rosberg dropped the bombshell days after securing his first championship in last Sunday's Abu Dhabi season-ender.
While making light of the German driver's decision - "He needs more time to spend his money, that's all" - Ecclestone said he would like to see Spaniard Fernando Alonso replace Rosberg alongside Lewis Hamilton.
The double world champion is contracted to McLaren for next season, although given that team's poor performances in recent seasons he could well be scanning his contract for escape clauses.
"It's possible I suppose, let's see. They've got new management now at McLaren. Maybe he's fed up being there and they're fed up having him," Ecclestone said.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, four-times world champion, was also unlikely to be lured away.
"I think not. I don't think Seb would want to be with Lewis," said Ecclestone.
British bookmakers began immediately recalculating their odds for next season, with Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein the favourite to join Hamilton at the dominant champions.
Britain's Jenson Button, meanwhile, was 10-1 to call off his retirement.
"Lewis is now the red hot favourite (for the title) but with his competitive nature I am sure he will be gutted not to be going head-to-head next year," William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said. (Editing by Ed Osmond)