Six years after his first venture into retirement and two years after restarting his engines, Michael Schumacher has decided to permanently park his Formula 1 racing career.
“I have decided to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season, although I am still able to complete with the best drivers in the world,” the 43-year-old driver announced through his website. “I have never regretted my comeback… But then, at some point, it is time to say goodbye.”
The announcement comes with six races left on the Formula 1 season and a week after Schumacher’s current team, Mercedes AMG, signed Lewis Hamilton for the 2013 campaign.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn called it “an emotional day” when he heard of the decision. Brawn and Schumacher worked together for many years, going back to when the driver was with Benetton and during his career at Ferrari.
“In my opinion, he is the greatest Formula 1 driver,” Brawn is quoted on the Mercedes website. “The records which he holds in our sport speak volumes for his success and commitment.”
Schumacher first retired from Formula 1 racing in 2006. He returned to the sport in 2010, but the results of prior glory did not return with him. The three years at Mercedes were marred by lackluster results. Schumacher said he is “happy with my performance and that I was continuously raising my game,” but he was faced with a car that was not truly competitive and the driver had maintained for some time that he had been thinking about the future.
“During the past few weeks and months, I was not sure if I would still have the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on,” the seven-time world champion said. “And it is not my style to do anything which I am not 100% convinced about.”
Schumacher’s Formula 1 history is a hall-of-fame one. He started 308 grand-prix races and won 91 of them, on the way to a record seven world driving titles. His records are all but legendary, including: most consecutive driving titles (five - 2000 to 2004); most wins in a season (13 in 2004); most wins with one team (72 with Ferrari); and records for leading the most races (142), most laps (5,111) and most race distance (24,144 kilometers).
In the 52 races since his return to Formula 1, Schumacher has only led one lap and had one podium finish. Even then, his third place at the 2012 European Grand Prix set a record for the oldest driver to climb on the podium in Formula 1 history.
“Losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning, something I had lost out of sight sometimes in earlier years,” Schumacher summed up the last three seasons in Formula 1. “You have to appreciate to be able to do what you love… you have to live your convictions. I have opened my horizon, and I am at ease with myself.”