For the second time is his established Formula One career, Michael Schumacher has confirmed he will retire from the sport come the season’s end.
The seven-time world champion made the announcement in the build-up to this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Schumacher, who has raced in over 300 races, scoring 91 victories and 68 pole position over 21 years of racing, has called time on his Formula One career. His decision was influenced by last week’s news announcement that Lewis Hamilton has joined the Mercedes team from next year.
Speaking of his decision, Schumacher said: “It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goals to develop a world championship fighting car. But it is also very clear that I can still be very happy about my overall achievements in the whole time of my career.
“In the past six years I have learned a lot about myself. For example, that you can open yourself without losing focus. That losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning.
“Sometimes I lost sight of this in the early years. But you appreciate to be able to do what you love to do. That you should live your convictions and I was able to do so.
“I would obviously like to thank Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, the team, the engineers, and all my mechanics for all the trust that they put in those years in to myself. But I would also like to thank all of my friends, partners and companions who over many years in motor sport supported myself.”
The 43-year-old German added that he had felt his energy and enthusiasm had begun to wane, just as it did when he quit Ferrari and the sport the first time at the end of 2006.
“I have been thinking for quite a while [about this],” he said. “We had a three-year agreement, hard to keep motivation and energy – it’s natural you think about this more than when you are young.
“I have had my doubts for quite a while whether I had energy to [carry on]. I said in 2006 my battery was empty and now I am in the red zone. I don’t know if there is time to recharge them – but I am looking forward to my freedom.
“I have no hard feelings. In a different way we achieved a great deal…
“Now I will do exactly as I did the first time – to finish and focus 100 per cent on what I do.”
Schumacher originally retired from Formula One in 2006 – to make way for Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari – then returned with Mercedes in 2010. His place at the team has now been taken over by Lewis Hamilton from 2013.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said it was an “emotional day” as Schumacher made public his decision.
“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 said: “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 our Mercedes AMG Petronas Silver Arrows works team, 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.”
There was speculation that Schumacher might make a move to Sauber, where he began his world championship-level career with the Mercedes-backed Swiss-team’s endurance prototype squad in 1990, but that proved wide of the mark.
And so ends the ‘second’ career of Michael Schumacher. After three years racing for Silver Arrows, with his best result so far being that third-place finish at Valencia in 2012 plus that great ‘pole’ lap at Monaco – only to receive a five-place grid penalty – his ‘comeback’ to Formula One hasn’t been as successful as his first.
It would be fitting for the 43-year-old German to sign off the final six races on a high by scoring some championship points to help Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. Plus a good way to demonstrate to his worldwide fans that he still has the passion to race. But his time to compete against the rise of young and upcoming stars means that this decision was for the best.