In recent years, a number of Formula One drivers have turned to TV commentary in their retirement. Michael Schumacher does not look set to join them.
Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill are among the well-known names of Formula One racing who will feature in British Formula One coverage this season. Their expertise will certainly add to the experience of watching the BBC and Sky English language feeds throughout the world. Perhaps German broadcasters would like to have a similar offering in their home language.
Schumacher retired from Formula One for the second time at the end of 2012, which makes him an obvious target for any broadcaster looking to improve its offering by adding a driver expert to its panel of experts. As the most successful driver in Formula One history, Schumacher would have invaluable insights into what goes on in the cockpit and, perhaps more importantly, could provide detailed understanding of race strategy – after all, he and technical genius Ross Brawn used brilliant strategies to their advantage during Ferrari’s dominant period from 2000 to 2004.
But the seven-time champion is not interested in joining the media. In an interview with German newspaper Bild, he said he would rather spend time at home with his family, which he was unable to do as much as he might have liked during his long racing career. And, as he himself has said, why would he go into commentating if he were following the Formula One circus around the world? Driving would be more fun.
Schumacher has spent his time since retiring assisting his wife Corinna, who breeds horses and markets her own range of horse blankets. But while he is not maintaining any active involvement in Formula One, his interest in the sport remains. He will be watching the opening race on Sunday from his home in Switzerland. He thinks “the season’s going to be really tight.” Let’s hope he’s right.
Today’s Brazilian Grand Prix was the last race of Michael Schumacher’s long and astonishingly successful career. The legendary German has retired from Formula One racing. Schumacher finished seventh from 13th on the grid, showing in his last race that he still has plenty of speed, even in a struggling car.
A reasonable start and plenty of on-track action saw Schumacher make up two places in the first few laps of the race. A puncture required an early pit stop that pushed him right to the back of the field. Unfortunately, it was just a few laps before the track was wet enough for a change to intermediate tyres, and so Schumacher had to pit again when slick tyres were no longer quick enough.
At that point, Schumacher was lapped by the leading McLarens and Nico Hulkenberg and the afternoon was looking fairly bleak. Fortune intervened when the safety car emerged to allow the marshals to clear some debris from the track. Schumacher was one of a number of drivers who were allowed to unlap themselves under safety car conditions, and that put him back in contention for points.
Schumacher’s Mercedes team had opted for a wet setup, which hampered dry qualifying performance, but meant Schumacher had some speed available when the rain intensified. He found himself up in sixth place after making some passes and benefiting from drivers ahead spinning. But when his friend and compatriot Sebastian Vettel came up behind him, Schumacher offered no resistance, preferring to assist Vettel in his bid for the title. As it happened, Vettel would have won the title even if he had finished behind Schumacher, but the gesture was a warm one nonetheless.
Schumacher’s seventh place promoted him to 13th in the Drivers’ Championship. It’s the lowest he has finished in a full season in his career, but there are few who would disagree that he has been better than that this season. The first half of the year, when the Mercedes W03 was competitive, was marred by a string of car failures and team errors that no doubt cost Schumacher a significant number of points. He showed his speed with the fastest time in Monaco qualifying and picked up a well-deserved podium in Valencia, before the car gradually fell off the pace and into the midfield. Finishing seventh after an early puncture in changing weather conditions in today’s Brazilian Grand Prix shows just how much of a racer Schumacher still is and rounds of his season and career appropriately.
Schumacher’s career is a series of sevens. Seventh in qualifying for his first race, seven titles, car number seven in his last two seasons and a seventh place finish to round it all off. He would have preferred a win today, of course, but the string of sevens does seem strangely appropriate nonetheless, even if the number itself means nothing.
Schumacher leaves an enormous gap in Formula One, one that can never be filled. He is certainly the most successful and arguably the greatest Formula One driver in history. Although Lewis Hamilton takes over his seat at Mercedes, his presence and stature in Formula One will not be so easily replaced. But perhaps it is time for a quiet retirement. He has earned it, after all.
Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix marks the end of the 2012 Formula One season, and with it the end of the most remarkable career in the history of the sport. Michael Schumacher is retiring, this time for good.
Schumacher’s stats leading up to his final race are:
Grands Prix: 307
World Championships: 7 (1994-1995, 2000-2004)
Pole Positions: 68
Fastest Laps: 77
Career Points: 1560
Aside from the number of races entered (Rubens Barrichello holds the record with 326), all of those stats are records and most are likely to stand for the foreseeable future. In particular, Schumacher’s dominance with Ferrari, where he won five consecutive titles, will likely never be matched.
Schumacher retired from Formula One at the end of 2006, only to make a comeback in 2010 with Mercedes at the age of 41. The combination of Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Mercedes seemed, on paper, to be unbeatable. But it was not to be. A single podium finish – in Valencia this season – and the fastest qualifying time in Monaco are the high points of Schumacher’s three years with the Silver Arrows. And the pole position did not even count, as Schumacher had a penalty that demoted him to sixth on the grid.
Schumacher’s comeback can only be described as a failure, in that he has not achieved anything remotely like the success of his previous stint in Formula One. But it has certainly not been a waste of time. Seeing the biggest name in the sport come back and go wheel-to-wheel with drivers half his age has been enormously positive for Formula One. It has also shown a more relaxed and accessible Michael Schumacher to the world, a welcome contrast to the ultra-professional and sometimes cold Michael Schumacher of his first career.
Unfortunately, the sport’s most successful driver is unlikely to add to his success on Sunday. The current Mercedes car is far off the pace, so much so that the team has not featured in the points for the last five races. It would be a fitting end to a glittering career if Schumacher could stand on the podium on Sunday, but that seems impossible given the performance of the car. The only glimmer of hope for a strong result is the predicted wet weather, which could negate some of the weaknesses of the car.
Whatever happens on Sunday, it will mark the end of an era. By any reckoning, Schumacher is the greatest driver in the history of the sport. He will leave a gap on the grid that cannot possibly be filled, and his absence will certainly be felt in years to come.
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.