Schumacher’s second swansong will be his last

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Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Melbourne, 2010Michael Schumacher’s decision to return to retirement will surely bring to an end a career that spanned 19 seasons.

Schumacher originally retired in 2006 at the end of an 11-year stretch with Ferrari. Today he called time on his comeback with Mercedes which began three years ago.

It was a return packed with intrigue when it was announced at the end of 2009. Could a seven-times world champion now in his forties become a race-winner, perhaps even a championship contender, again?

It seemed not after a disappointing season in which he was soundly beaten by team mate Nico Rosberg. Worse, his move on Rubens Barrichello in Hungary brought back memories of the most notorious moments from his first career.

But after that Schumacher made strides. In the second half of last year he was increasingly on a par with Rosberg and often out-raced him. At Spa, the scene of so many great Schumacher moments, there were flashes of the old master at work as he came from last on the grid to take fifth place.

He built on that progress this year. Of the seven races where both Mercedes finished, Schumacher was ahead of Rosberg in all but one of them.

Unfortunately a string of glitches with his car robbed him of some potentially strong results. He was holding third in Melbourne when his gearbox failed. In China he ran second before the pit stop error that ended his race.

Finally in Valencia his car and luck held, allowing him to deliver the first and so far only podium finish since his return.

So in many ways it’s a disappointment to see him leave again when his performances have improved, even if they remain short of his early-2000s zenith. But it is a sensible decision for a man who has realised, for the second time, that he lacks the motivation to continue at the top level of motor racing.

As he announced his retirement Schumacher gave a frank assessment of the comeback project: “It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goal to develop a world championship fighting car.”

But he also spoke of the personal discoveries he’d made in that time: “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.”

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2012Some will ask whether this second retirement is any more definitive than the first one. I expect it will be. Schumacher desires to compete and win and he no longer has the motivation or the means to do either. He admitted he is no longer a “long-term” prospect for any team.

Does his second retirement mean his first one was the right time to stop? I’m not sure. I wonder if Schumacher watched Kimi Raikkonen driving the car he had just vacated, winning to the 2007 title, and thought “that could have been me”.

Five years on, the ease with which Raikkonen has reintegrated into F1 following a two-year absence has made Schumacher look like he was making hard work of it.

There will inevitably be questions about how Schumacher’s three-year coda to his original career adjusts our view of his achievements. But diving straight into that now would be premature.

After all, he still has half-a-dozen starts left in a car which looked more competitive at the last Grand Prix than it has for quite a few races.

When he announced his first retirement in 2006 Schumacher went on to score a superb victory in China, then led in Japan until his engine failed, and bowed out in style in Brazil. Perhaps he will again go out with a bang and not a whimper.

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51 comments on Schumacher’s second swansong will be his last

  1. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 4th October 2012, 15:15

    There will inevitably be questions about how Schumacher’s three-year coda to his original career adjusts our view of his achievements.

    I think the answer to that is: not much. His comeback wasn’t really remarkable in any positive or negative sense. It was disappointing, yes, but not a total disaster, either. At the end of the day, it doesn’t change his achievements (7 titles, 91 wins, 68 poles) or his moments of infamy (Jerez 1997 and Monaco 2006 come to mind). And in the same way Nigel Mansell isn’t really judged for his McLaren comeback in 1995 or Alan Jones for his Haas-Lola comeback in 1985, Michael won’t end up being judged by what he didn’t achieve in this comeback. It will be an unfortunate footnote to what has been a truly remarkable career.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th October 2012, 15:17

      @Journeyer I’m going to wait until it’s over before passing judgement. But I bet there are a fair few people ‘on deadline’ at the moment who don’t have that luxury…

      • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 4th October 2012, 15:20

        Indeed. Still, unless he becomes a serial crasher or suddenly takes win/s, I don’t think it changes the verdict on his comeback. And even then, it may not really change things.

      • Roald (@roald) said on 4th October 2012, 15:52

        Yes, but this comeback had two effects on the way people hold him in regard. Just looking at the statistics and performances, of course he was not nearly as great as he was before he retired in 2006. But, on the other hand and I most are overlooking this – lots of people started cheering for him after his comeback when things didn’t always go his way. Pre-2007, when he was almost a machine at times, dominating a sport that we thought was better off without him winning everything there was to be won, he wasn’t exactly the most popular guy on the grid, often coming off as arrogant in people’s eyes when being interviewed. The Schumacher that joined the sport in 2010 seemed much more humane instead of a robot, much more charismatic and just seemed to enjoy driving and life in general a lot more. I don’t think his legacy is tainted at all, I think we got to see more of Michael Schumacher than we ever would have reading a biography had he not made his comeback. Even people who despised him in his Ferrari-years have become fans in the past 3 years. Now he’s got the numbers AND the sympathy.

        • Roald (@roald) said on 4th October 2012, 15:53

          …and I think most people…*

        • Metallion (@metallion) said on 4th October 2012, 18:36

          I’m definitely one of these people. I never liked Schumacher during his first career, especially as I supported Häkkinen and Räikkönen so he was always the main rival. After his comeback I think he’s given a much better impression as a person and I’ve liked having him back in the sport. From the start he was so much more laid-back in the interviews.
          I think it’s a shame that he’ll leave the sport again. He’s obviously still very fast and I cannot understand those who think that older drivers should leave and make room for young upcoming drivers simply because they’re old. F1 isn’t about age, it’s about being fast and competitive and Schumacher has proven he still has what it takes. I think the issue for new drivers getting into F1 is about the lack of testing opportunities, which is also why teams decide to go for experienced drivers over inexperienced ones.
          Lastly, I hope he can take a final victory before the end of the season and that he’ll continue in some other racing series in the future.

          • apsiloritis (@apsiloritis) said on 5th October 2012, 0:05

            I agree with @metallion. My feelings to Schumacher are neutral (infact, almost negative). He did what he did, and he did win 7 titles. I cringe at some past antics, but they are equal to stuff that happens now (poor driving, over-optimistic moves). For me, I think F1 will not appreciate what we have lost until long after: just like many other champions. None of us commenting are such good drivers, btw. I think it’s funny how easy it is to judge from a keyboard.

      • franco del as no sabe nada de f1 said on 4th October 2012, 16:38

        he never captured my imagination the way keke rosberg or nigel mansell did. he was fast there is not doubt but i had never seen him win a race live, and i don’t feel any regrets. That must mean something i guess.
        I was in mexico 92 and valencia 2012, so if things does not change much, i saw his first and las podiums. I am more than happy with that.

  2. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 4th October 2012, 15:18

    Good article, Keith. But wasn’t he lying fourth in Australia, having had an off in the first corner that let Sebastian Vettel by?

  3. thejudge13 (@thejudge13) said on 4th October 2012, 15:25

    Shame really. I wonder if he’s doing this because he was completely taken off guard by the speed of Lewis Hamilton events – that everyone thought was illogical and wouldn’t happen.

    I seem to remember conversations in the summer about MS having a contract offer from Mercedes but the debate was over 1 or 2 years.

    The timing of this announcement too is strange, if he’s running out of steam and this was always the for the delay, why not bundle it all up with the Perez/Hamilton announcement.

    The German press have been viscous at times about him this week, and I hope MS is not trying to save face and persuade us this was coming all along even if Hamilton had stayed at McLaren.
    The Red Baron would probably have won a race in a Sauber 2012!

    • alonso thinks he would of won 3 already in a 2012 sauber!

      not sure about 3, but certainly Sepang.

    • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 4th October 2012, 23:09

      He said earlier in the year that he would announce his future intentions to the team in October. The team told him that was too late for them to secure a top driver for next year if he left it that late to make known his intentions. So the hiring of Hamilton or Perez was put into motion while Michael deliberated over his future.

      It is now October and Michael has delivered a statement of his future intentions. Meanwhile, he has been replaced at Mercedes by Hamilton.

      The man really has nothing left to achieve in Formula 1, I doubt he would be lying about anything to save face. Even now as he nears the end of his second stint, although it was mostly unsuccessful, the man is still revered and highly respected by (almost) everyone in the paddock and by F1 fans worldwide. There are vocal and steadfast detractors, but they have always been and always will be, even if he had gone on to win another world championship.

  4. Girts (@girts) said on 4th October 2012, 15:42

    Of the seven races where both Mercedes finished, Schumacher was ahead of Rosberg in all but one of them.

    I think these stats are slightly misleading because of those seven races where Schumacher didn’t finish, he crashed in two and didn’t have much chance of finishing ahead of Rosberg in another four.

    What I want to say is that 2012 has been undoubtedly Schumacher’s best post-comeback F1 season so far and that his average performance has been very close to Rosberg’s but 8:6 would be a more fair assessment than 6:1 in that sense and his terrible and costly mistakes at Singapore and Spanish GPs put MSC slightly behind Rosberg in my ratings so far.

    • Girts (@girts) said on 4th October 2012, 15:46

      Sorry, 7:7, not 8:6.

    • thejudge13 (@thejudge13) said on 4th October 2012, 16:13

      ave quali time off pole
      MS 0.936s
      NR 1.145s
      He has a higher ave grid position and of his 7 DNF’s only 2 were crashes he caused. the others
      1 hit from Grosjean
      2 gearbox failures
      mechanics forgetting to put the wheel nut on properly
      a jammed DRS wing
      Also…
      Starting 3rd Malaysia – hit by Grosjean. Recovered for 1pt.
      Bahrain – in quali defective DRS, qualified 23rd. Recovered for 1pt

      I’d have him in a team ahead of Massa and Rosberg on performance this year

  5. Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th October 2012, 16:19

    I’m not convinced that it would have been the case that MS would have looked at KR winning the 07 WDC and possibly thought ‘that could have been me.’ It didn’t feel to me like that was how it happened, but I may be wrong. Is it the case that MS announced his retirement from Ferrari and F1, and THEN they hired KR? Or had they already hired KR which left MS with a decision to announce. ie. I think Ferrari was done with MS, done putting so much effort into one driver, and was ready for a change. And similarly to these recent announcements, Merc hired/announced LH before MS had a chance to make an announcement. I think MS’s hand has been forced for a second time.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th October 2012, 16:41

      Having done a little googling it does seem like in fact MS had a say along with JT as to who his replacement should be at Ferrari. MS suggested KR to Todt, at least according to one article I referenced. So in that sense I’m not sure MS would have looked at KR’s 07 achievement and said ‘that could have been me’…it couldn’t, as he himself had a hand in putting KR there, at least according to Todt, and keeping in mind the plan was for MS to stay at Ferrari as a consultant, Todt’s right-hand man.

      • SchumyBottoms said on 4th October 2012, 20:23

        MS suggested KR to Todt

        Really??? But that would be contradicting when u notice the fact that Kimi was put on unofficial gardening leave – later confirmed by mclaren – as early as the beginning of the 2006 season, whereas schumy only decided on his retirement – as per his various interviews – in the last quarter of the season. That would mean either Kimi was anyway headed out of mclaren irrespective of whether shumy recommended him for his place…or if latter is true, then it could only have been to replace massa, if anybody!

        if the former is contradictory, the latter is unimaginable! why wud schumy have wanted to get his bottoms whipped!!!

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th October 2012, 15:43

          Ya, fair enough. I was just trying to figure out if this is the second time he has kind of been ‘ushered out,’ or had his hand forced, the first time possibly being at Ferrari, which is kind of a strange thing imho.

  6. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 4th October 2012, 16:24

    I think that’s a very agreeable assessment.

    I’m sure he’ll be disappointed not to have had more success in the last three years, but if Mercedes end up winning the title(s) at some point in the following three, you will be naive to say that his work over the last few seasons will not have contributed significantly to that.

    I do believe that it’s fair to say that Rosberg has beaten him over his time back in the sport. I know that Schumacher is old and had been out of the sport for a little while, but considering Michael is one of the greatest (if not, the greatest) talent to ever sit in an F1 car, I do think you have to put Nico’s achievements into context. It’ll be very interesting to see what becomes of Mercedes next season, once Michael departs and Hamilton gets involved.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th October 2012, 16:49

      For sure, NR could have understandably been greatly intimidated upon the announcement of MS’s return to F1 with Merc. Yet he wasn’t. It’s almost like he took it as a great personal challenge and revelled in the opportunity to beat a 7-time WDC. I think NR is only a better driver than ever, especially given his first race win this season. And for all the accolades MS is being given, including Brawn touting him as 2010 WDC before he had even turned a Merc wheel, that’s all the more reason to appreciate what NR has done in the last 3 years, including securing himself as part of the team’s future. So I think NR will continue to look upon having a WDC as a teammate as a great challenge. And I think he will do very well.

      • icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 5th October 2012, 0:04

        And I think he will do very well

        Don’t forget, NR has a different reference point next year. I hope you will get your answer.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th October 2012, 15:53

          Oh I think there is no question we will get an answer, but I don’t think the reference point will be much different, if I’m to understand your point. If you are suggesting LH will be better than MS was at Merc, and therefore might make NR look lesser than he does now, that may happen, or imho we may be able to throw a blanket over the two, that’s how close they may be. But in terms of my above comment, I think it is safe to say NR will not be phazed by having a WDC named LH as a teammate since he wasn’t by having MS as one.

  7. TheJudge (@thejudge) said on 4th October 2012, 16:31

    I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of these last 6 races with him. Thank you michael for the chance to watch you out there again.

  8. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 4th October 2012, 16:38

    He did what he loved, even though he knew where he was going to be.

  9. celeste (@celeste) said on 4th October 2012, 17:16

    Adam Cooper got a fair point in this one, let wait and see if Vettel/ Hamilton/ Perez can take a Pole in Monaco when they are 43 years old… People can talk a lot about Schumi´s legacy being damage by his return… but he still has statistics on his side… he is still the greatest and I really doubt any one will ever reach him…

  10. Johann Buys said on 4th October 2012, 17:19

    I wonder if a petition will change his mind? I am incredibly sad to see him go now that he is getting his ducks in a row. I feel robbed. I would have loved to see him at Sauber. He could have made such a difference. Sad!

  11. Jorge Lardone (@jorgelardone) said on 4th October 2012, 17:42

    It is a sad news. It would have been fantastic to see him race next year with Sauber or Williams, this cars with inexperienced drivers have proven to be better than the Mercedes. The reality is that Brown is responsible for that Michael did not have a better performance this three years; the amount of team errors and mechanical failures that harmed Schumacher have no equal among all the teams and drivers of F1 in recent years .
    Michael Schumacher is one of greatest drivers of all times and a kind human being.

  12. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 4th October 2012, 17:48

    Shame to see him go after his best Merc season yet. I just hope he can finish on a high (i.e. a podium) instead of something mediocre.

  13. Five years on, the ease with which Raikkonen has reintegrated into F1 following a two-year absence has made Schumacher look like he was making hard work of it.

    I’m a huge Schumacher fan – and also a big fan of the Iceman. And this distinction has been most difficult and painful to acknowledge. For whatever reason(s), and certainly in comparison to Raikkonen, this comeback has not progressed smoothly for Michael and I personally will be left feeling ambivalent, if not outright disappointed. I’m glad he came back though, I just wish it had been more successful. I did enjoy seeing him almost put a whining Barrichello into the wall though. OK, it would’ve been unacceptable overkill to actually have crashed him, but the brilliant skill required on the part of Schumacher to cause the Brazilian to genuinely fear for his life is something I think we can all appreciate.

  14. Is he sure this time??

  15. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 4th October 2012, 19:08

    Sad but good for his legacy I guess. Schumi, you will be missed. :(

    He might not be as good as he use to be, but I just loved the fight in him. Even today, IMO his race craft is second to none. Monza 2011 was a huge entertainment to watch.

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