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Schumi to quit at end of season

Monza: Michael Schumacher, seven-time world champion and the most successful Formula One driver of all time, said on Sunday that he was retiring from the sport at the end of the season.

Ferrari announced the German’s decision just minutes after Schumacher won the Italian Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen, who finished on second spot, has been named as Schumacher’s replacement following his three-year contract. The 26-year-old Finnish driver moves over from McLaren-Mercedes, where he is finishing his fifth season.

“It has been a really tough decision not to work together at this level but I knew that one day it had to come,” Schumacher said after closing to within two points of leader Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ standings.

Schumacher said he had decided to quit over two months ago after the Indianapolis Grand Prix on July 2.

“I decided after Indy and after Indy I informed the team,” the 37-year-old told a post-race news conference.

“I don’t want to go away while I am over it — that is one of the reasons why I am leaving now,” said the German.

Schumacher, who picked up his 90th race win on Sunday, said the contractual situation of teammate Felipe Massa had contributed to the timing of his decision.

The German said that after Ferrari had made their decision to sign Finn Kimi Raikkonen from McClaren for next season, Massa “needed to know my plans so that he could negotiate”. Massa has extended his deal with Ferrari until 2008.

Asked what he would miss most about the sport when he was gone from competition, Schumacher remained silent for several seconds and after taking a deep breath said only “excuse me”.

Meanwhile, Schumacher was called a legend by figures within Formula One on after he announced his decision. “He will become a legend as a driver,” Ferrari director Jean Todt said. “Michael has been the author of a unique chapter in the history of Formula One.”

“You have to recognise he’s been a great champion,” Red Bull driver David Coulthard said. “It’s the end of an era. It was a fitting way for him to announce it with a victory,” Coulthard added.

In Germany, Schumacher was praised as one of the greatest sports personalities of his era.

Franz Beckenbauer, the former soccer star and Germany’s most popular sports personality, said Schumacher’s retirement was a “pity.” “It’s always too bad when such a great personality steps down,” he said.

Looking back at the trail-blazer

Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher announced on Sunday that he was retiring from the sport. The most successful Formula One driver of all time said after winning the Italian Grand Prix in Monza that he would not be competing next season. The German is the only driver to win seven championships in Formula One history and he also owns most of the sport’s meaningful records. His titles came in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The following is a look at the German’s career:

1969 — Born January 3 in Hurth Hermulheim, Germany.
Nationality: German l Resides in: Switzerland, a country where motor racing is banned l Wife: Corinna l Children: 2, Gina Maria and Mick l Family: Father Rolf, mother (late) Elizabeth and brother Ralf l Teams driven for: 1991 — Jordan; 1991-1995 — Benetton; 1996 — Ferrari
1974 — Begins kart racing, using a homemade kart built by his father.
1983 — Obtains German Kart licence.
1984 — Wins German Junior Kart championship.
1985 — Finishes second in the Junior World Kart championship in Le Mans. Wins the German Junior Kart championship.
1986 — Finishes third in the German Senior Kart championship.
1987 — Wins the German and European Senior Kart championships.
1988 — Signs for the Euphra Formula Ford team. Wins the Formula Konig championship, finishes second in the European championship and sixth in the Formula Ford 1600 series. Signs for the WTS Formula III team after a test drive at the end of the year.
1989 — Finishes third in the German Formula III series.
1990 — Wins the German Formula III title. Finishes fifth in the Group C World Championships.
1991 — Debuts in Formula One at the Belgian Grand Prix with Jordan as a stand-in for jailed Belgian driver Bertrand Gachot. Signs for Benetton-Ford a week later, competing in five races. Finishes 12th in the championship.
1992 — Mexico provides the first podium of Schumacher’s career and he wins his maiden Formula One Grand Prix in Belgium. Finishes third in the championship, ahead of triple world champion Ayrton Senna. Yet he has to wait until Monaco in 1994 for his first pole position.
1993 — Wins the Portuguese Grand Prix. Finishes fourth in the championship.
1994 — Wins his first Formula One world title in the final race in Australia amid controversy. Collides with championship rival Damon Hill taking both drivers out of the race. Becomes first German Formula One world champion. Wins eight races.
1995 — Retains world title, 33 points ahead of runner-up Hill. Wins nine races. Helps Benetton to first constructors championship with Johnny Herbert.
1996 — Joins Ferrari. Finishes third in championship. Wins three races.
1997 — Disqualified from world championship final classification, after driving into title rival Jacques Villeneuve in the final race of the season in Spain. Wins five races.
1998 — Finishes second in the championship. Wins six races.
1999 — Breaks his leg in the British Grand Prix and is unable to compete for six races. Returns to help Ferrari to constructors championship with Eddie Irvine. Wins two races.
2000 — Wins third world title and Ferrari’s first since 1979. Wins nine races, equalling Nigel Mansell’s record.
2001 — Wins fourth world title. Wins nine races. Wins 52nd Formula One race at the Belgian Grand Prix, breaking Alain Prost’s record.
2002 — Wins fifth world title, equalling Juan Manuel Fangio’s 45-year-old record. Wins 11 races, beating Mansell’s and his own record. Finishes in the top three in every race.
2003 — Wins sixth world title, breaking Fangio’s record. Wins six races.
2004 — Wins seventh world title. Wins 13 of the year’s 18 races to finish the season with a record 148 points.
2005 — Finishes third in championship. Wins United States Grand Prix.
2006 — Wins US Grand Prix for the fifth time, becoming the only driver ever, in any series, to win five races at the Indianapolis circuit. Wins French Grand Prix for a record eighth time. Wins 66th pole at San Marino GP, breaking Senna’s career pole record. Announces retirement, effective at the end of the season, after winning Italian Grand Prix.

RECORDS AT A GLANCE

• Pole Positions: 68
• Wins: 90 n Most wins in a season: 13 (2004) n Successive wins in a season: 7 (2004)
• Most fastest race laps: 75
• Most points in a single season: 148 (2004)
• Most successive seasons with a win: 15
• Most podiums: 153
• Most second-place finishes: 43
• Most wins at the same Grand Prix: 8 (France)
• Most wins from pole position: 40
• Most clean sweeps (pole position, race win, and fastest lap): 22
• Most successive podiums: 19 (2001-02)
• Biggest winning points margin: 67 (2002)
• Fastest title: 2002 (won in July with six races to spare)

SOME OF… ... THE BEST

Belgium 1992

Schumacher’s first race win, in the wet, and one in which he showed all his tactical brilliance. Overtaken by Benetton teammate Martin Brundle after sliding off, Schumacher noticed that the Briton’s tyres were worn out. Reckoning that his must be as well, he pitted immediately for rain tyres. It was a masterstroke of timing that won him the race.

Belgium 1995

A victory from 16th place on the starting grid in changing conditions and with the German staying out on slick tyres in the wet. The outcome was also tainted by controversy, with the German receiving a suspended one-race ban for weaving on the straights to prevent Damon Hill overtaking.

Europe 1995

In his last race in Europe for Benetton, Schumacher reeled in Jean Alesi and overtook him two laps from the finish to win in front of his home fans at the Nuerburgring in a race hailed as the greatest of his second championship year.

Spain 1996

Schumacher’s first win for Ferrari, again in the rain, and he lapped the entire field bar the two men on the podium with him — although he was 45 seconds clear of second placed Alesi. “If anyone had asked me how much I would bet on me winning here I would have said not one penny,” declared Schumacher.

Hungary 1998

An inspired drive, coupled with a three-stop strategy at a circuit where overtaking is deemed almost impossible. Schumacher had to drive a series of sprints after technical director Ross Brawn asked him to make up 25 seconds in 19 laps. Schumacher replied “Thank You” and did just that.

Japan 2000

The race that clinched Schumacher’s first title for Ferrari, ending their 21 year wait for a drivers’ crown. Schumacher had trailed McLaren rival Mika Hakkinen for almost 40 laps before getting ahead with pit stop strategy. Not the most thrilling of races, but one of the most emotional.

... THE WORST

Australia 1994

Schumacher faced furious accusations of cheating after an infamous collision with Briton Damon Hill in the title-deciding Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide. The incident on the 31st of 81 laps knocked both drivers out of the race and Schumacher won the crown by one point.

Europe 1997

Another collision, this time at Jerez with Schumacher trying to ram Canadian Jacques Villeneuve off the track in the title-decider. This time it backfired, Villeneuve won the championship and Schumacher was excluded from the final classification.

Austria 2002

A black day for Formula One, with world-wide outrage after Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello, who had dominated the entire weekend and led from start to finish, to slow and allow Schumacher to win. He did so at the last corner. There was no need for it. The German had won four of the five previous races and ended up winning the title by a record margin.

... AND A BIT OF BOTH

Monaco 2006

Schumacher again revived accusations of cheating when he was sent to the back of the grid for deliberately blocking the track in the dying seconds of qualifying, preventing rivals from beating him to pole position. He atoned for it during the race, storming through to finish fifth and with the fastest lap.

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