MICHAEL Schumacher is retiring from Formula 1 racing again – and this time, he says: “It might be forever.”
• Seven-time world champion couldn’t commit to another year so Mercedes signed Lewis Hamilton
• F1’s most successful driver says Hamilton ‘one of the best’
Unable to replicate the success of his prime, the seven-times F1 champion announced on Thursday that he will retire at the end of the season, bringing an end to the most decorated
career the sport has ever seen.
Mercedes announced last week that Schumacher would be replaced by Lewis Hamilton next season and, while there was speculation that the 43-year-old German could move to Sauber, he has now confirmed that he will end his racing career.
“Basically, I’ve decided to retire at the end of the year,” Schumacher said at the Japanese Grand Prix. “Although I was able and capable of competing with the best drivers that are around, at some point it’s time to say goodbye and this time it might be forever.”
Schumacher holds the record for championships and for grand prix wins, with 91. He began his career in 1991 and won two titles with Benetton, then five for Ferrari.
His voice broke with emotion as he made his announcement, but he insisted the decision to once again leave the sport was the right one, confessing he was “empty”.
“It’s not painful,” he said. “It is a relief to me. I have done so much in this sport but, when the battery is going low, the first time, and then it is doing so again, and I am older, it is something I am looking forward to.
“There are plenty of other things in life you can do and now is the time to change that.”
Schumacher retired in 2006 but came back to drive for Mercedes in 2010. The comeback has not lived up to expectations, with just one podium finish.
“Without doubt we did not achieve our goals to develop a world championship fighting car,” Schumacher said. “But it is also very clear I can be happy with my overall achievements.”
Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn paid tribute to Schumacher. Brawn was also chief strategist at Ferrari when Schumacher and the Italian team became so dominant that the sport’s authorities made several rule changes to spice up the level of competition.
“He’s the most courageous racing driver of the century,” Brawn said. “And I feel very privileged to have worked with Michael from the beginning.”
Schumacher said he hadn’t decided what he will do after the season but just wants to focus on the final six races.
He has struggled this season, and was issued with a 10-place grid penalty at Suzuka for causing a spectacular crash with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne during the Singapore GP.
“There is no point in the need to make any decisions right now,” Schumacher said. “I have options, obviously, but whatever it will be, will be made in time.”
Schumacher considered retiring even before the announcement of Hamilton’s move to Mercedes. “During the past month I was not sure if I still had the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on,” he said. “It is not my style to do something which I am not 100 per cent feeling for.”
Schumacher holds the record for the most races won in a single season, with 13 in 2004. In 2002, he became the only driver in F1 history to finish in the top three in every race of a season, and set the record for most consecutive podium finishes.