Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One champion, announced Thursday in Suzuka, Japan, that he would be retiring at the end of the season, ending his comeback campaign, which began in 2010.
The announcement was expected after the news a few days ago of Lewis Hamilton's signing with Mercedes AMG F1, effectively taking Schumacher's seat to race alongside Nico Rosberg in 2013.
"I have decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season, although I am still able to compete with the best drivers of the world,” he said on the Mercedes GP website. “This is something that makes me proud, and this is part of why I never regretted my comeback.”
Schumacher first retired in 2006, after a highly decorated career, mostly with Scuderia Ferrari. From 1991-2006, he notched 91 wins, seven drivers' titles and enough controversies to fill a Silicon Valley server farm. He came back in 2010 to join Mercedes and team boss Ross Brawn, the man with whom he had his greatest successes, first at Benetton and later at Ferrari.
"In my opinion, he is the greatest Formula One driver, and the records which he holds in our sport speak volumes for his success and commitment," said Brawn in a statement.
Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel had equal praise. "He is the biggest name there is in Formula One," he told Bild, according to the Agence France Presse before Schumacher made his announcement.
"I have had my doubts for quite a while, whether I personally have the energy and motivation to do so (carry on). I have achieved so much." -- Michael Schumacher
The comeback with Mercedes was a bumpy ride, however. Schumacher was regularly out-qualified by Rosberg. He reached his first and only podium this year, a third place at the European grand prix. Entering the Japanese Grand Prix, Schumacher was 12th in the standings with 42 points; Rosberg was seventh with 93.
Along the way, he just did not seem as sharp as he was during his glory years. At the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago, Schumacher crashed into the back of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne.
"I have had my doubts for quite a while, whether I personally have the energy and motivation to do so (carry on)," he told reporters Thursday. "I told you in 2006 that my battery was empty. And I am on the red zone with my batteries. I wasn't sure whether you could recharge them with the time that you have available and I felt that it's time for freedom again."