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GP Week : Issue 170
21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: When Michael Schumacher won the 2006 Italian Grand Prix Ferrari were so nervous that he might renege on his agreement to make way for Kimi Raikkonen the following season that they circulated a press release announcing his retirement before he’d even switched his engine off and made his way to the press conference. In Suzuka, ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, the seven-times world champion was at least accorded the opportunity to break the news himself this time. After coming out of retirement in 2010 to join the Mercedes team, finally Michael will be calling it a day at the end of this season. Mercedes’ team principal Ross Brawn, who was Schumacher’s technical chief during his dominant Ferrari years, described the German as “the greatest racing driver of this century” . Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel said his countryman will be missed: “It's a big loss, it's a shame. There are a lot of people who wanted him to continue, including myself.” Schumacher, however, had little choice but to retire after his disappointing comeback, which has yielded just one podium and no wins. With Mercedes already announcing Lewis Hamilton will race alongside Nico Rosberg next year, there was no space for him at the works team. Joining a smaller team, such as Sauber, was a possibility he decided against. Schumacher expressed relief that the end is now in sight: “Already during the past weeks and months I was not sure if I would still have the motivation and energy which is necessary to go on; and it is not my style to do anything which I am not 100% convinced about,” confided the 43-year-old. “W ith today's decision I feel released from those doubts. In the end, it is not my ambition to just drive around but to fight for victories. A record-breaking 91-victory career peppered with controversy, ‘Schumi’ says he’s now more comfortable with himself than he was at the height of his success: “In the past six years [since Schumacher first retired in 2006] 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.” When Schumacher made his Formula One debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You was number one, Terminator 2 was at the cinema, the Soviet Union was on its last legs, and Lewis Hamilton was six-years-old. Hamilton paid tribute to the man he will succeed at Mercedes next year: “I don't see myself as replacing Michael. I don't think anyone can replace Michael, he's a legend in the sport” . It certainly is the end of an era – for a second time. But what a shame we’re unlikely to see Schumacher hunting down a win in Sao Paulo, just as I saw there in 2006. That’s a memory that will always stick with me. OPINION OPINION ADAM HAY-NICHOLLS F1 Editor THE End of an Era. again.