13 years for me as a fan
Thank you Michael, for 13 years of amazing driving, fun and everything. Danke.
Schumacher confirms retirement
The most successful Formula One driver of all time, Michael Schumacher, has confirmed he will be bringing a glittering racing career to a close at the end of the 2006 World Championship, answering months of questions concerning his future.
On the day when he secured his 90th F1 victory and closed the gap to Fernando Alonso in the standings to just two points, Ferrari issued an official statement as the German crossed the line, confirming that he will retire at the end of this season, 'whatever the outcome' of the championship.
With his voice cracking and struggling to hold back the tears, Schumacher explained in the post-race press conference that the time had come for him step aside for his successor, who is set to be confirmed as Kimi Raikkonen, second to the German in Italy, and current team-mate Felipe Massa.
Schumacher will bring his career to a close at the final round of the season at the Interlagos Brazilian Grand Prix, determined to claim an eighth world title to go out on a high.
Insisting that he would like to spend more time with his family, Schumacher also hinted that he would like to remain part of the Ferrari structure, even if his current concentration is indeed on this year's championship.
"Words are not enough and whatever I could say now will never fully express how much I love this fascinating world of motorsport and all it has given me," Schumacher said.
"From go-karting to Formula One, I have lived through moments that I will never forget. I am profoundly grateful for everything I have had. I want to thank everyone who has accompanied me, supported and inspired me, right back to the days of my childhood.
"Above all, a special thanks goes to Corinna and our two children, who have given me the strength to do what I have done. All these years in Formula One have been amazing, especially those spent alongside my friends in the Scuderia. Soon my future will belong to my family, while I am happy to be still part of Ferrari. But, for now, what matters is this world championship."
Having made a rare appearance on the pit wall to watch Schumacher claim another record-breaking win, Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemelo admitted that he felt a great sense of sadness to see the German, who did plenty to turn the struggling team around in the mid-90s, depart, but personally thanked him for his input in the ten seasons he has competed for the Scuderia.
"I had always said that the decision to retire would be his alone, but now that decision has been taken, I feel a sense of sadness," di Montezemelo said. "We have lived through some unforgettable times together, some good and some bad, achieving results that will be hard to equal.
"To Michael goes the thanks of everyone in the company and supporters of Ferrari for all the dedication he has shown to our colours, for the determination and courage with which he has worked, which has provided immense satisfaction. He is both sincere and passionate and has earned the affection of all of us and of our fans. His relationship with Maranello will continue, albeit in a different form and I am very happy about that."
Schumacher came to a then struggling Ferrari team in 1996 having made a long-lasting impression on his 1991 debut with Jordan, defecting to Benetton just a season later, leading to titles in 1994 and 1995.
A move to Ferrari in 1996 was seen as a risky decision, particularly as they had spent several years in the doldrums, but with Ross Brawn also joining him at the legendary squad and the team employing respected Jean Todt from Peugeot, the trio were amongst the driving force in taking Ferrari to five titles between 2000 and 2004.
"Michael has been the author of a unique chapter in the history of Formula 1 and of Ferrari in particular. It has yet to reach its conclusion and what he has achieved extends over and above the results obtained," added Managing Director, Jean Todt. "He is an exceptional man and will become a legend as a driver. For me personally, he is a great friend and together we have lived through unrepeatable experiences. Having had the opportunity to work alongside him has been and will continue to be a privilege."
Although Ferrari will now wait until the conclusion of the Championship before revealing just what role Schumacher will play in the team in the future, for now they are concentrating on the final three races of the season at China, Japan and Brazil.