Michael Schumacher has today announced that he will be retiring from Formula 1 at the end of this season during a press conference at the Suzuka in Japan.
The seven-time world champion, who first retired from the sport at the end of 2006 before making a comeback in 2010, said he has no regrets from his three seasons at Mercedes.
“I have decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season, although I am still able to compete with the best drivers of the world,” said Schumacher, who will be close to 44 when the season ends in November,
“This is something that makes me proud,” he added, “and this is part of why I never regretted my comeback. 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 goodbye.
“Already during the past weeks and months I was not sure if I would still have the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on; and it is not my style to do anything which I am not 100% convinced about. With today’s decision I feel released from those doubts. In the end, it is not my ambition to just drive around but to fight for victories; and the pleasure of driving is nourished by competitiveness.
“I said at the end of 2009 that I want to be measured by my success, and this is why I had a lot of criticism in the past three years which partly was justified. It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goal to develop a world championship fighting car within those years. It is also without doubt that I cannot provide a long-term perspective to anyone. But then it is also clear that I can still be very happy about my overall achievements in Formula One.
“In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful for it; for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus. That losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something I had lost out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate to be able to do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have opened my horizon, and I am at ease with myself.
“I would like to thank Daimler, Mercedes-Benz and the team for their trust. But I also would like to thank all my friends, partners and companions, who over many good years in motorsport supported me. But most of all I would like to thank my family for standing always by my side, giving me the freedom to live my convictions and sharing my joy.”
It has been a difficult three years for Schumacher. In his first season he was comprehensively out-qualified and out-raced by team-mate Nico Rosberg, and attracted much criticism during the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2010 when he ran former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello close to a wall when fighting for tenth place. Things began to improve in 2011 and this season, despite a number of technical problems with his Mercedes (and a few mistakes), he has been much more competitve.
Schumacher crowning achievements over his three-year return – a podium in Valencia and a pole position in Monaco (which was reduced to sixth-place after a penalty from the previous race) – are considerably underwhelming when placed next to the roll of honour from his first career, but the greatest driver in the history of the sport (statistically at least) will be missed by many.
“This is a big loss for our sport,” said Rosberg after today’s announcement. “Michael did a huge amount to make Formula One so popular in Germany, and lots of fans switched on their TV sets because of him. He achieved so much.
“It has been and continues to be something special and a great experience for me to drive with him and against him. In the last three years we pushed the team hard together which will help us in the years to come. I wish him all the best for the future.”
Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn, who was with Schumacher at Benetton and Ferrari when he won his seven titles, paid tribute to him.
“Having worked with Michael for so many years, it is an emotional day today as he announces his retirement from Formula One for the second, and final, time,” he said. “We have enjoyed so many experiences together during our time at Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes, and I feel very proud, honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Michael so closely.
“In my opinion, he is the greatest Formula One driver, and the records which he holds in our sport speak volumes for his success and commitment.
“On behalf of everyone at our Silver Arrows team, we wish Michael all the best with his future plans and extend our sincere thanks to him for his commitment, passion and hard work during our three years together. We have not achieved the results that we would have wished during this time; however Michael’s contribution to our development and the future of our team has been significant.
“Whatever Michael decides to do next, I am sure that he will be keeping a close eye on our progress in the years to come.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice President Norbert Haug also recognised what Schumacher has achieved during his time in F1.
“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,” said Haug. “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.
“Michael began his professional racing career in 1989 as a member of the Mercedes Junior Team in Group C Prototypes, and he will conclude it at the end of this season with [Mercedes], as he informed first us and then the international media today.
“Michael did a fantastic job during the build-up phase of our still-young Silver Arrows works team and, although we have not yet achieved our targets in our third season, Michael’s invaluable hard work has established the foundations for future success. For this, we give him our thanks and recognition.
“All of us in the team – and first and foremost Michael – are working hard to have six more races in which we can show a respectable level of performance together.
“Thank you, Michael, for everything: it was, and is, a pleasure to work with you.”
Schumacher will be replaced at Mercedes by Lewis Hamilton, in a move that was announced last week.