The history of racing is rife with bygone figures, races, and cars. The end of this Formula 1 (F1) season will see one of the most historical figures of this era retire from the sport for good, seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher. He retired once before in 2006, only to return in 2010 and drive for Mercedes-Benz. This time, however, Schumacher says he could be done for good.
Arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time, German-born Michael Schumacher defined F1 for this generation of racing fans. The winner of seven F1 championships, two more than the next closest racer, Schumacher has also won more races than any other racer in F1 Grand Prix history. His 91 wins are 40 more than any other racer ever! The kind of consistent performance that Schumacher was able to produce every season on the track could possibly never be matched.
Upon his return in 2010 Schumacher, joined a strong Mercedes-Benz team, but he found little success, making the podium just one time in 52 races. At age 43, Schumacher decided that this season was as good as any to step away from the sport that he has defined for the last 20 years.
“Basically, I’ve decided to retire at the end of the year,” Schumacher said at the Japanese Grand Prix. “Although I was able and capable of competing with the best drivers that are around, at some point it’s time to say goodbye, and this time it might be forever.”
Lewis Hamilton is slated to be Schumacher’s successor for Mercedes at the end of the season. No slouch himself on the F1 circuit, Hamilton has racked up 20 wins already in his five-year career for McLaren. Hamilton was one of the most highly touted drivers in history when he stepped into the limelight in 2007. If Hamilton’s career takes a similar path to that of his predecessor, these two could have a lot more in common than just driving for Mercedes in their models.
While Schumacher will be 44 by the time next season rolls around, the 27-year-old Hamilton will have a lot of time to catch F1’s greatest driver. In 1992, when Schumacher got his first Grand Prix win, Hamilton would have been just seven years old. Hamilton has just one F1 championship and the chances of repeating six more times is extremely slim, but so were Schumacher’s chances during his career.
Losing Schumacher in the F1 is similar to the NBA losing Michael Jordan or the NFL losing Jerry Rice. Although those outside of the racing loop may not understand the impact that Schumacher has had on the sport, those that know of his great deeds will always remember him as, for now, the greatest F1 driver of all time.