Michael Schumacher has done what everyone expected him to do and announced that he will retire for the second—and final—time from Formula One.
ESPN F1 quotes the German superstar as saying:
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 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.
Schumacher leaves the sport with a record that is as impressive as it long. Spanning more than 20 years, his statistics are unparalleled.
He has the most championships (7), most consecutive championships (5), most race wins (91), most pole positions (68), most fastest laps (77), most races with a single team, and he won races in 15 consecutive years. He led 142 races and covered 5,111 laps and more than 24,000 kilometres leading races.
But that was also his record when he retired the last time.
In 2010, I wrote:
Schumacher’s decision to return to Formula One racing was undesirable, unnecessary and unlikely to succeed. It’s difficult to think of a single upside to his return, other than another opportunity for his fans to see him one last time.
He has done little in the intervening period to change that opinion.
It’s difficult to know whether the Mercedes was an inferior car or whether Schumacher has just gone past the point where he could reasonably be expected to get the most out of it.
At 43, he isn’t close to being the oldest driver in F1 history—Louis Chiron holds that distinction at nearly 56 years old, and Luigi Fagioli won a race at 53—but those were different times, and modern Formula One racing is a completely different sport.
One of the saddest sights in sports is a champion who didn’t know when to quit, and Schumacher is no exception.
Had he stayed retired after he left the sport at the end of 2006, there would have been few who would question his legacy. But now there will always be those questions about this misguided epilogue to his career.
It’s easy to see why he came back. The chance to represent Germany’s most famous marque (coupled with a whopping salary) would have been almost irresistible.
But, while he didn’t embarrass himself, it was clear that he was out of his depth and was regularly outperformed by his younger teammate. The resumption of his retirement is long overdue.
The man himself sums it up beautifully, according to F1Times.com:
I have had my doubts for quite a while whether I had the 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.
This will not be the last that we see of Schumacher in F1, even if it won’t be in the driver’s seat. He should enjoy his retirement and, this time, stay retired.