Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2012

Schumacher’s second swansong will be his last


Posted on

| Written by

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.


Browse all comment articles

Images ?? Mercedes/Hoch Zwei

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

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

  1. 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.

    1. @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…

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. …and I think most people…*

        2. 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.

          1. 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.

      3. franco del as no sabe nada de f1
        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. Good article, Keith. But wasn’t he lying fourth in Australia, having had an off in the first corner that let Sebastian Vettel by?

    1. No, that was 3rd. I remember that battle very well.

      1. I was confused. I remember both Vettel and Schumacher taking to the grass in turn one, with Vettel passing Schumacher, but I thought Schumacher retired with a gearbox problem later on, whereas he was actually in the midst of retiring due to his gearbox when he had his off.

        1. Pretty sure Seb went off in his persuit of Schuey before catching him, then Schuey wqent off when his gearbox caved in.

          1. exactly right :)

  3. 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!

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

      not sure about 3, but certainly Sepang.

    2. 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. 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.

    1. Sorry, 7:7, not 8:6.

    2. 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
      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

      1. Yes, I agree. We’re all blinded by age… if these were the stats of Newbie Maldonewbo, would we be so critical?

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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!!!

        1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

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

    1. @sigman1998 I don’t think he did. He expected to be provided with a better, more consistent car.

  9. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  16. 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.

    1. Good point you’ve made.

      I believe Rosberg and Schumacher have been equally matched this season, obviously not shown by the championship results.

  17. 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).

    1. A steward? Why not? As they say, it takes one to know one…

  18. 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.

    1. Drop Valencia!
      5th October 2012, 0:37

      RB was already alongside when MS crowded him, simple.

  19. 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.

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. 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…

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      5th October 2012, 14:38

      @nome Can you link that article?

  23. 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.

Comments are closed.