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. matthewf1 (@) said on 4th October 2012, 19:18

    He has had seven DNFs, but in only one of those races was he ahead of Rosberg at the time. By only saying that he has finished ahead of Rosberg in 6 out of 7 times that they have both finished, gives the impression that he has by far had the upper hand this season, when this is actually not the case.

  2. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 4th October 2012, 20:11

    Will he be invited back as a steward?! That would be a talking point…

    Without him around these last three years, the Mercedes team would’ve been invisible at times. But I’m pleased he’s freed up some of the log-jam preventing drivers moving up within (and into) F1. If next year’s Sauber is a winner, then I’d rather see the next Perez driving it (Frijns or Valsecchi or whoever) or someone who’s shown promise but has been bitten back by F1 (Kovalainen or Alguersuari).

  3. i wish someone would explain to me what he did wrong in hungary, going by the rules we had at the time.

    and how it was worse than what rosberg did?

    and dont mention the wall, the wall has nothing to do with it. the rules dont state you need to be more gentle if there is a wall there.

  4. James (@jamesf1) said on 4th October 2012, 22:54

    I would sell my soul to see Schumacher to win just one more time before it’s curtains for good. For what its worth he is the best driver of all time in my opinion (contrary to Jackie Stewart’s view, where he blew his own trumpet like always), and if he got that one win, it would fully justify his return. If he didn’t, I would argue his comeback was brave and a great move. He’s dragged an awful car around for two seasons, and a mediocre one this season and extracted at least 110% every time.

  5. He admitted he is no longer a “long-term” prospect for any team.

    This might suggest that he tried Ferrari (with equal opportunity with Alonso over the first few races and then whoever is behind would support the other one) but they only offered him a 1 year #2 from the outset and he refused.

    Now what happened with Sauber? Were they not willing to offer him at least a 2 year contact ???

    I am EXTREMELY SAD my Shumi is once again being forced to retire.

    Hopefull he will come back as a team owner or join the FIA as Todd suggested a year or two ago.

    We LOVE you SCHUMI <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  6. ana heully (@ana1313) said on 5th October 2012, 1:19

    I can’t believe that Schumi is retiring again! I mean I can believe it but I’m still in shock. I even had tickets to see him this year in Austin, Texas but I’m not going to be able to go because my dad got sick. I have been a huge Schumi fan since I was a little girl, and I’m upset that I haven’t been able to see him race.
    It doesn’t surprise me that he is going back into retirement though. He hasn’t been doing nearly as well in this stretch of his career as he was the first stretch. I just hope he finishes his last season on a high note. Needless to say, Schumacher will be greatly missed.

  7. Did anyone read that snarky and snide article by Andrew Benson,? mad my blood boil and as for Jackie Stewart, touch of the old sour grapes there, his ‘prophecies’ are inevitably wrong anyway! It is also beyond me how Schumi is characterized as a thug on the track when the great hero of everyone Senna- was just as bad. as for the Hill v Schumi saga, don’t forget Monza 95 when apparently Frank Williams apologised to Beneton and called Hill a pratt. All the drivers have had their day with questionable incidents but poor Schumi had the temerity to mix it with Hill, the press’s darling. Heaven only knows what the Beeb would say if he and Hamilton had a serious coming together…

  8. Jules (@jayhammy) said on 20th January 2013, 19:15

    I guess its down to the individual How they view his comeback. It was largely frustrating but given his previous performance level it was always gonna Be that. His polé át. Mônaco And third place át. The european gp made some of the old Skool fans smile, while át. The same time indicating the New era in f1 is ultra competitive And thats the way we like it.

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