Rosberg was victorious in the Breakthrough of the Year category, the German seeing off competition from world-record-breaking athletes Almaz Ayana and Wayde van Niekerk, and three teams who performed heroically in 2016: English Premier League Champions Leicester City, European Championship quarter-finalists Iceland and Olympic Rugby Sevens gold medal winners Fiji.
Rosberg, who was recognised for getting the better of Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in 2016 after two previous title defeats, is the fifth F1 driver to scoop the award, following on from Daniel Ricciardo (2015), Jenson Button (2010), Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2002).
“[This is] unbelievably special for me,” said Rosberg, who received his award from two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, in a video message posted on Twitter. “This is the sports Oscar, it’s the biggest thing you can win in sports.”
For a third successive year Rosberg’s Mercedes team were nominated in the World Team of the Year category, but the Silver Arrows lost out to baseball’s Chicago Cubs, who won their first World Series title for 108 years in 2016.
Other winners on the night included Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt and fellow multi-gold medallist gymnast Simone Biles, who were named Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year respectively, and swimmer Michael Phelps who picked up the Comeback of the Year prize.