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Michael Schumacher saddles up for fast exit

Friday, 23 November 2012 - 11:39am IST Updated: Friday, 23 November 2012 - 11:40am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
The build-up to his first retirement here in 2006, when he was pipped to the title by Renault's Fernando Alonso but left with his head held high after storming from the back of the field in characteristically gritty fashion to finish fourth, was absent. There were no tears, no regrets.
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He said that he would be quite happy to leave the sport and to lead "a different life again" - and this time we believed him. Michael Schumacher betrayed virtually no emotion in what was almost certainly his last ever press conference at a Formula One race, in Sao Paulo yesterday (Thursday).

The build-up to his first retirement here in 2006, when he was pipped to the title by Renault's Fernando Alonso but left with his head held high after storming from the back of the field in characteristically gritty fashion to finish fourth, was absent. There were no tears, no regrets.

Asked if he was happy to be leaving, Schumacher did not pause for breath. "Yeah," he said, "I have tried that mission to end successful. It didn't work this time but I'm quite happy to finish from here and go for a different life again."

Even the 43 year-old's colleagues on the grid struggled to generate much in the way of heartfelt sentiment at the departure of the most successful driver - he has seven world titles - that F1 has ever known.

Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who will become the youngest triple champion in history if he can survive the twin threats posed by the rain and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso this weekend, did his best.

Vettel recalled that Schumacher had been his "childhood hero" who had aided his rise through the ranks, which began at Schumacher's local karting track in Kerpen.

"He was a true inspiration back then," Vettel said. "He took care of the championship, gave out all the trophies. I now obviously understand the busy schedule he had and taking that extra time for us, the kids racing, was something very special.

"When I met him the first time I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to say anything stupid. Today it is

different. It doesn't feel like talking to my childhood hero, it is like talking to Michael. I see the person, not what he has achieved. Racing with him the last couple of years - not as close as with Fernando - but that image was very far away when I was a kid."

Vettel added that it has been a "very special last couple of years and a very special relationship we share." It was a nice remark, but it felt as if he had said it before. He probably had.

Schumacher's second retirement has been a slow, painful process, much like his second career in the sport. In the first he amassed 91 race victories on the way to those titles in a period of sustained dominance the like of which we will probably never again witness. The second has seen him garner one pole and one podium place from three seasons in which he has been comprehensively outscored by his Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg.

There was less controversy this time around, too. Schumacher showed a much more human side to his character in his second incarnation. But it made for less compelling viewing.

He is ready to settle down to a quieter life with his wife, Corinna, and their two children. He says he plans to spend more time on his ranches in Switzerland and Texas, perhaps even compete in Western riding. There is just one race left to go before he can ride off into the sunset. "I will take the best out of it and enjoy it as much as I can," he said.

 


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