The Formula One world was just about to head into a peaceful off-season, but the bombshell that newly-crowned world champion Nico Rosberg has retired with immediate effect has thrown the sport an almighty curveball.
Just five days after claiming the championship in a tense decider with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg has announced today he is retiring from the sport.
Citing the realisation of a dream, Rosberg – who joined his father Keke in becoming world champion – will head off to the sunset as a world champion.
The question now of course, is who takes up the most sought-after seat in Formula One in a situation not seen for over 20 years.
Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein leads the betting at 2/1, and the young German impressed on a regular basis for Manor this season.
Wehrlein is currently without a drive for 2017 and would tick plenty of boxes in the Silver Arrows’ boardroom back in Stuttgart.
But it’s the man next in the betting who will set tongues wagging.
Fernando Alonso is just 3/1 to ditch McLaren for Mercedes, and rejoin old enemy Hamilton.
The duo, widely regarded as the best in the business, endured a destructive year as team-mates in 2007, and a reunion would provide a gripping undercurrent to next season.
The Spaniard had to battle through another disappointing year with McLaren Honda, and he has made bids to drive for the Silver Arrows in the past.
Mercedes, or Alonso himself, would have to pay a sizeable fee to break out of his current deal however, depending on any performance clauses.
A far cheaper option could be Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who has shown plenty of potential in the last four seasons with the famous squad.
At 7/1 is Esteban Ocon, who like Wehrlein, is a part of the Mercedes set-up but has recently agreed a deal to race for Force India.
Outsiders include teenage superstar Max Verstappen at 20/1, though it seems highly unlikely Red Bull would let their protégé join their biggest rivals.
And at 33/1, a few may just fancy backing Jenson Button. The world champion has, like Rosberg, hung up his racing gloves, but could he be swayed back into a drive with such race-winning potential as Mercedes?
Earlier this week reports circled that it would be Hamilton who would quit Mercedes first – it’s 16/1 he doesn’t drive for them next year – but in a stunning twist it’s Rosberg who has ensured Formula One will head into Christmas and the New Year reacting to the sport’s biggest announcement in a generation.
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Ladbrokes latest betting
Pascal Wehrlein – 2/1
Fernando Alonso – 3/1
Valtteri Bottas – 4/1
Esteban Ocon – 7/1
Nico Rosberg – 10/1
Sebastian Vettel -14/1
Nico Hulkenberg – 16/1
Max Verstappen – 20/1
Carlos Sainz Jnr – 25/1
Jenson Button – 33/1
Daniel Ricciardo – 33/1
Paul Di Resta – 50/1
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing