Six years on from his retirement from Formula One at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher will say farewell again at Interlagos on Sunday and this time he intends to savour the occasion.
The seven times world champion, who was racing for Ferrari in 2006 and is now ending a disappointing three year comeback with Mercedes, has made clear he is calling it quits for good this time.
The 43-year-old German, whose place will be taken by 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton next season, said the Sao Paulo circuit – a ramshackle bowl steeped in motor racing passion – was a fitting place to round off an astonishing career that began back in 1991.
“I always enjoy the enthusiasm of the fans, and it’s simply a great circuit which has seen many memorable events and always produces spectacular races as the unique layout guarantees plenty of action,” Schumacher said in a team preview for Sunday’s season finale.
“For me, it’s also the circuit that brings back my memories of Ayrton (Senna),” said the man whose first title, with Benetton in 1994, came after the great Brazilian’s death at Imola that year.
Triple champion Senna won at Interlagos in 1993 with the young Schumacher standing alongside on the podium in third place. The German has gone on to win the race four times.
“I have had fantastic years in Formula One and a lot of support from fans around the world, and I wish to particularly thank them for that”
“My departure from Formula One will probably be less emotional for me this time than in 2006, when we were still fighting for the championship and everything was much more intense,” said Schumacher.
“This time round, I will be able to pay more attention to my farewell and hopefully savour it too. I have had fantastic years in Formula One and a lot of support from fans around the world, and I wish to particularly thank them for that.”
Schumacher will leave with his legacy perhaps less glittering than before but with most of his records intact and unlikely to be matched for years, if not decades, to come despite the best efforts of Red Bull’s championship leader and compatriot Sebastian Vettel.
Those records include his seven titles, 91 race wins, 155 podium finishes and 68 pole positions.
Schumacher has scored more points than any other driver, led more laps and set more fastest laps. His 13 wins in 2004, 19 successive podiums (2001-02) and 24 consecutive scoring finishes are so far unrivalled.
His comeback, after three years out, has been a pale shadow of his dominance with Ferrari and he has been on the podium just once – a third place at this season’s European Grand Prix in Valencia.
Mercedes have not scored a point in their last five races while Schumacher, who was a title contender in Brazil in 2006 when Spaniard Fernando Alonso won his second title with Renault, has drawn a blank in his last six.
“I would be happiest if I could say goodbye with a strong race, and I am sure we will be doing everything we can to make it happen,” said Schumacher.