It’s been the Formula 1 world’s worst kept secret: Michael Schumacher has announced he is hanging up his racing boots – for the second time.
During a press conference at Japan’s Suzuka circuit ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the German driver confirmed his second stint in F1 would come to an end at the close of the 2012 season.
“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,” Schumacher said, “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.”
Some might say the music stopped when Hamilton parked himself in Schmui’s seat at Mercedes, leaving the German without a 2013 drive before he had made a final decision. But his race form since returning to F1 in Ross Brawn’s Mercedes AMG Petronas team has been a shadow of the world-beating performance he is accustomed to.
Despite speculation on the F1 grapevine that Schumacher would join Sauber for the 2013 season following the re-shuffle prompted by Hamilton’s move, it’s thought Schumacher’s focus on being a podium contender would have ruled out such a move.
Ross Brawn, who has worked with Schumacher at Benetton and Ferrari, as well as Mercedes, acknowledged the comeback, which he was instrumental in orchestrating, hadn’t been the success they’d hoped:
“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.”
Lewis Hamilton, who has signed a three-year deal with Mercedes from 2013 commented:
“He is the only real legend of my racing era.”