Michael Schumacher has called time on his Formula One career as at the end of 2012, in an announcement today from Suzuka, where the seven-time World Champion will be competing in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The announcement on Schumacher’s website – full statement available here – reads:
“I have decided to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season, although I am still able to compete with the best drivers of the world. This is something that makes me proud, and this is part of why I never regretted my comback. I can be happy with my performance and the fact that I was continuously raising my game during the last three years. But then, at some point it is time to say good-bye.”
Schumacher went on to thank Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, his team, his friends, and most emphatically his family for standing by him and supporting him throughout his comeback years.
The announcement brings to a close the most remarkable chapter in the history of Formula One, and arguably in the history of professional sport. In a career spanning just over 21 years, Schumacher has won seven World Drivers’ Championships, 91 races and 68 pole positions, all of which are records that may never be beaten. He has raised the bar in terms of professionalism and the quest for perfection in an already technical sport.
Schumacher will be remembered in particular for returning Ferrari, the sport’s most illustrious team, to its place at the pinnacle of Formula One. After winning back-to-back titles with Benetton in 1994-95, Schumacher moved to Ferrari, who had not produced a driver’s champion since Jody Scheckter in 1979 and were struggling to remain competitive. Four years of development followed, after which the Schumacher-Ferrari partnership delivered a record five successive titles. Schumacher’s red helmet in a red Ferrari is an image that few F1 fans will easily forget.
Schumacher has been known throughout his career for his physical fitness and attention to detail. At 43 years old, he is still possibly the fittest driver on the grid, and his exercise regimen has certainly played a significant role in enabling him to compete at the highest level long after most drivers would have hung up their helmets. Success in Formula One is found in taking care of details, and Schumacher has always worked tirelessly in all areas of the car and his own driving to find any possible extra advantage. Those traits added to his own formidable driving talent have made him without doubt the world’s greatest ever racing driver.
At the end of 2006, when Schumacher retired for the first time, he had broken almost every available record and achieved far more than he could ever have wanted. But at the end of 2009, he announced that he would return to Formula One for three years in pursuit of another title. Such a comeback for a man in his 40s seems impossible, but Schumacher proved, against the odds, that he can still be competitive in a field that includes drivers half his age. He has steadily improved through the three years of his return to the point where, in a better car, he would almost certainly be winning races. Such a performance from a man with nothing to prove is indicative of his remarkable focus and dedication.
Although he has announced his retirement, Schumacher’s career is not over yet. There are still six races remaining in the season, and he will be pushing as hard as ever to win them. It has been six years since the illustrious German has tasted victory in Formula One, and although the title is now far out of reach, Schumacher would dearly love to bow out from the top step of the podium.