Schumacher announces retirement
F1's most successful ever driver to bring the curtain down on his extraordinary career at the end of the season
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 04/10/12 2:20pm
Michael Schumacher will retire from Formula 1 for the second time at the end of the season.
The seven-times World Champion announced the decision in a press briefing at Suzuka on Thursday, less than a week after Mercedes revealed that they had signed Lewis Hamilton to replace him for 2013.
In wake of that announcement it was widely speculated that Schumacher may look to prolong his career elsewhere on the grid - most likely at Sauber. However, the sport's most successful ever driver has now confirmed that, although he still feels he can cut it with the best of the current generation, he has detected that this motivation to race on is declining.
"Let me start with a little clarification and announcement today. Obviously it concerns about my future, probably not a complete surprise," Schumacher told the assembled press corps, on the same day that he had also informed Mercedes of his intention to retire.
"I've decided to retire by the end of the year. Although I'm still able and capable to compete with the best drivers that are around but at some point it's good to say goodbye and that's what I'm doing by the end of the season - and it might this time even be for ever!
"During the past month I was not sure if I still had the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on. It is not my style to do something that I'm not 100% feeling for.
Michael Schumacher's career record
Debut: 1991 Belgian GP
Race wins: 91.
Fastest laps: 77.
"With today's decision I feel released obviously from those doubts and in the end my ambition to fight for victories and the pleasure of driving is nourished by competitiveness."
In attendance at the press conference, Sky Sports F1's David Croft tweeted: "When I retired in 2006 Michael tells me, 'my batteries were empty and now they're in the red zone again'."
Speaking live on Sky Sports News following the announcement Martin Brundle expressed the view that it was unfortunate for Schumacher that he hadn't been able to announce his decision to quit prior to the news Hamilton was being signed as his replacement.
"It's a shame because it would have been much better if he would have been able to announce that two or three weeks ago rather than sort of being hoofed out by Lewis Hamilton joining the team and effectively fired," Martin said. "He's now decided to retire of course for the second time.
"I don't blame him at all for coming back. He looks in incredible condition. He's driven well, he's made some clumsy mistakes, but he's also put in some great performances. Often this year outqualified Nico Rosberg, who's highly rated.
"But of course overall it's not been successful his comeback. He hasn't hadn't to immense records he created in his first career but you can't take them away from him. He is a seven-times World Champion. He has won 91 Grand Prix.
"But he has been pushed out now and it sort of feels a little bit uncomfortable."
With the three-year contract he committed to on his return to F1 in 2010 having been due to expire at the end of the season, Schumacher had reiterated for weeks that he would make a decision on his future by October.
Schumacher sets retirement date
But although last week's announcement that Mercedes had succeeded in luring Hamilton to race for the team in 2013 had appeared in effect to force the German's hand, Schumacher himself says the news actually helped him arrive at the final decision to retire.
"The team had found an option with Lewis that sort of helped me finding that decision," he said.
"Sometimes in life your destiny will develop by itself and so it did without any hard feelings, without any regrets."
Mercedes chief Ross Brawn, who has worked alongside Schumacher for all of one season of his two-decade F1 career, hailed the German as the "greatest racing driver of this century" in wake of his decision to retire. The Englishman admitted to some regret that the final leg of their famous partnership fell short of expectations, but said Schumacher's contribution to the team's development still couldn't be underestimated.
"I think Michael brought to a lot to the team in this second period that people don't see," Brawn said. "A huge contribution behind the scenes.
"We haven't achieved what we wanted to achieve together and that's frustrating. But I think what we do achieve in the future Michael would have made a contribution to it."
Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug, who also has long-standing ties to Schumacher, added: "Our team, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to Michael for all his work, his exemplary commitment and his loyalty.
"For our brand, he was and remains not just a first-class racing driver and, through his record until 2006, the most successful of all time; but also a global idol and, last but not least, a great company ambassador who is admired across the world."
Schumacher had initially retired from F1 at the end of 2006 after admitting then that he no longer had the energy to continue at the top level after an extraordinary career in which he had rewritten the sport's record books, his roll of honour including seven Drivers' titles, 91 race wins and 68 poles.
But after three years on the sidelines, which he partly spent as an advisor to Ferrari, Schumacher sensationally announced in December 2009 that he would return to the sport the following season to drive for Mercedes' new works team, the two German manufacturer having supported his rise to F1 in the early 1990s.
Having signed a three-year contract, the then 41-year-old Schumacher had expressed the stated aim of challenging for an eighth world title. However, his 'second' career has conclusively failed to hit the heights of the first with Mercedes failing to consistently challenge at the front of the field and Schumacher claiming just a solitary podium finish in 52 races, in Valencia earlier this year.
Nonetheless, in pure performance terms relative to younger team-mate Rosberg, Schumacher has shown flashes of his former all-conquering self this year and set the fastest qualifying time at Monaco in May, although what would have been his 69th career pole didn't stand due to the fact he carried a five-place grid penalty into the session.
But in wake of Thursday's announcement the former Benetton and Ferrari star now just has six more races, starting in Japan this weekend, to try and write a little more history in F1 before hanging up his crash helmet for what will surely be the final time.